The New York Intellectuals: From Vanguard to Institution 0719039886, 9780719039881

This study of the New York Intellectuals uses original sources to reconstruct their history during the period of their g

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Table of contents :
Prologue: The rise of the New York Intellectuals
Introduction: The New York Intellectuals: a defence and a critique
Part One. The Cultural Avant-Garde
1 Partisan Review as avant-garde institution
2 Partisan Review in the 1940s: the claiming of Modernism
3 Politics, Pound and patronage: Modernist contradictions
4 Partisan Review in the 1950s: the institutionalisation of the avant-garde
Part Two. The Political Vanguard
5 Post-modern possibilities: Dwight Macdonald's Politics
6 An oasis: the New York Intellectuals in the late 1940s
7 The vanguard mutates: the New York Intellectuals and the Cultural Cold War
8 ‘Unwitting assets’?: the New York Intellectuals and Encounter
Select bibliography
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The New York Intellectuals This study of the New York Intellectuals uses original sources to reconstruct their history during the period of their greatest influ­ ence, the 1940s and 1950s. It takes as its major theme the contra­ diction between the Intellectuals’ avant-garde principles and the institutional locations they had come to occupy. Amongst those known collectively as the New York Intellectuals were such thinkers and activists as Philip Rahv, Mary McCarthy, Dwight Macdonald and Lionel Trilling. They assembled on the m ar­ gins of American society in the 1930s and formed an intellectual com munity on the basis of their shared concern w ith Marxism and Modernism. Afterwards they enjoyed a steady ascent to national and international prominence. Their influence is still felt in many spheres of American public life today. While defending the New York Intellectuals against the charges th a t they ’sold out’, this book also m ounts a sustained critique of their cultural and political vanguardism . The author pays particu­ lar attention to three of the illustrious magazines associated with th e Intellectuals, Partisan Review, Politics and Encounter, providing fresh insights into their contents and new inform ation about their m aterial histories. Hugh Wilford is Lecturer in American Studies at Middlesex University.

For my parents

The New York Intellectuals: from vanguard to institution

Hugh Wilford

Manchester University Press M anchester and New York D istributed exclusively in the USA and Canada by St M artin's Press

Copyright O Hugh WUford 1995 Published by M anchester University Press

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New York. NY 10010, USA Distributed exclusively in the USA and Canada by

St M artin’s Press. Inc., 175 Fifth Avenue. New York, NY 10010, USA British Library Cataloguing-ln-PubUcation Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library U brary o f Congress Cataloging-in-PubUcation Data

WUford, Hugh. 1965The New York Intellectuals: from vanguard to institution / Hugh WUford p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p.). ISBN 0 7190 3988 6 (hardback) 1. United States—Intellectual life—20th century. 2. Intellectuals—New York (N.Y.) 3. New York (N.Y.)—Intellectual life. I. Title E169.12.W 52 1995 974.7'1043'08681—dc20 95-4043 CIP ISBN 0 7190 3988 6 hardback

First published 1995 99 98

97 96 95

10 9 8

Typeset in Great Britain by Carnegie Publishing Ltd, Preston Printed in Great Britain by Biddles Ltd. GuUdford and King’s Lynn

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Contents Preface





The rise of the New York Intellectuals



The New York Intellectuals: a defence and a critique


P a r t one:

T he c u ltu ra l av an t-g ard e

Chapter 1

Partisan Review as avant-garde Institution


Chapter 2

Partisan Review in the 1940s: the claiming of Modernism


Politics, Pound and patronage: Modernist contradictions


Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Partisan Review in the 1950s: the institutionalisation of the avant-garde


P a rt tw o:

T he p o litica l v an g u a rd

Chapter 5

Post-modem possibilities: Dwight Macdonald’s Politics


An oasis: the New York Intellectuals in the late 1940s


The vanguard mutates: the New York Intellectuals and the Cultural Cold W ar


’Unwitting assets’?: the New York Intellectuals and Encounter




Select bibliography




Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Preface This is a history of the New York Intellectuals concentrating on the years 1940-60. As such, it is also a narrative of rise and decline or, more precisely, of m arginality followed first by assimilation and then by fragm entation. During this period the Intellectuals rose from a position of m arginal obscurity to one of national and inter­ national prominence; towards its close they began to drift apart and pursue separate careers. This study sets out to identify the causes and consider the implications of these developments. Recent histories of the New York Intellectuals, of which there are several, take a variety of topics as their central themes, ranging from the Intellectuals’ ethnicity to their avowal of ‘cosmopolitan’ ideals.1 The m ain concern of this volume can be stated simply: it is the New York Intellectual com munity’s relation to institutions, in particular the contradiction between its identity as an autono­ mous vanguard and the institutional positions it came to occupy. It hardly needs stating th at the ‘rise’ of the New York Intel­ lectuals was an institutional process: they would not have ‘risen’ as they did w ithout the endorsement, support and sponsorship of such institutions as the American state, foundations, universities and the publishing industry. In other words, ‘rise’ is a shorthand way of describing the Intellectuals’ institutionalisation. Yet the iden­ tity of the New York Intellectual community, in both its political and cultural forms, was predicated on the notion of an independent vanguard/avant-garde - a notion contradicted by the Intellectuals’ new institutional location. Considering this, it is perhaps not sur­ prising th at later intellectual generations have accused the Intel­ lectuals of trahison des clercs or, stated less grandly, a ‘cop-out’. The standard leftist view of Intellectual history is of a descent from prelapsarian autonomy into institutional corruption. The present study rejects the ‘cop-out’ thesis. On the one hand, it tries to show th at the institutionalisation of the New York Intel­ lectual community was less the result of cynicism or careerism on



the part of the Intellectuals than of various recuperative, hegemonic processes th at were so powerful the Intellectuals could not w ithstand them. Indeed, it is to the Intellectuals’ credit that they did try to resist their institutionalisation, or at least often succeeded in confounding institutional attem pts to ’use’ them. On the other hand, this book challenges the traditional leftist narrative of New York Intellectual history by m ounting a sustained and vigorous critique of the Intellectuals’ brand of autonom ous vanguardism, pointing to a num ber of theoretical and practical errors in the vanguardist project, and suggesting th at the Intellectuals’ dual identity as a cultural avant-garde/political vanguard actually Increased their vulnerability to institutional recuperation. This study approaches the history of the New York Intellectuals via three magazines associated w ith the Intellectual community: Partisan Review, Politics and Encounter. There are two reasons why this approach has been adopted. First, as the magazine article was the Intellectuals’ preferred means of w ritten expression, these pub­ lications represent invaluable docum entary records of the Intellec­ tuals’ changing values and concerns. Second, the Intellectuals’ magazines possess considerable historical significance in their own right, as centres of the New York Intellectual community, as in fact the Intellectuals’ very own institutions. In addition to exam­ ining the contents of these magazines, this work also attempts, w ith the help of unpublished archival m aterials such as personal correspondence, to reconstruct their careers as Intellectual insti­ tutions. In this last respect particular attention is given to an aspect of their histories th at has previously been almost entirely ignored, namely their material existence, in particular their relations with patrons. The m aterial histories of the New York Intellectual com­ m unity’s magazines reveal both the inexorability of the institution­ alising forces at work on the Intellectuals, and the misguidedness of their devotion to the ideal of intellectual autonomy. Why these three magazines, as opposed to other publications associated with the Intellectuals, such as New Leader, Dissent or Commentary? Partisan Review (1934-) is generally acknowledged to have been the New York Intellectuals’ leading magazine. It was instrum ental in the formation of the Intellectual community; it became the principal centre of the Intellectuals’ communal life; and it was crucial in cultivating their allegiance to the concept of the cultural avant-garde. It might also be said that, although m uch



is known about ‘PR’ during the 1930s and early 1940s, surpris­ ingly little has been w ritten about it during its peak years of influ­ ence, the late 1940s and 1950s - an omission this study attem pts to repair. Politics (1944-9) has been selected for special attention because, first, it has been pointedly ignored in other studies of the New York Intellectual community and, second, uniquely amongst the Intellectuals’ magazines, it offered a radical political alternative to the model of the revolutionary vanguard - an alternative th at still has political resonance today. The CIA-supported AngloAmerican journal Encounter (1953-90) has been chosen instead of, say. Dissent, partly because of the British connection and partly because it has received only perfunctory mention in other studies of the Intellectual community, but mainly because its troubled early history offers such vivid evidence that, even at the very site of their ‘cooptation’ by the national security state, the New York Intellectuals resisted the process of institutionalisation. Finally, a few words about the focus and organisation of the study. As a result of the decision to concentrate on these particular magazines, most of the coverage is devoted to the ‘founding gen­ eration’ of the New York Intellectual community, the chief editors of the ‘second’ Partisan Review: William Phillips, Philip Rahv and Dwight Macdonald. This is not to say, however, th at other Intel­ lectuals and, for th at m atter, other magazines do not receive de­ tailed attention. As regards structure, the Prologue offers a broad historical overview of the New York Intellectuals’ ‘rise’, or institu­ tionalisation. The Introduction raises some of the key interpretive problems explored throughout the study, as well as establishing the context for subsequent discussion of the Intellectuals’ maga­ zines’ m aterial history. P art One relates the history of the Partisan Review, showing how during the 1940s and 1950s the Intellectu­ als’ identity as a cultural avant-garde was transformed into th at of an auxiliary of the culture industries and universities. P art Two deals w ith Politics and Encounter, focusing on the former’s experi­ ments w ith non-vanguardist radicalism and the editorial disputes th at flared around the latter; the aim is to docum ent the Intellec­ tuals’ m utation from a revolutionary vanguard into Cold W ar propagandists. The Epilogue concludes the volume w ith some re­ flections on the significance and value of the New York Intellectu­ als’ legacy to the present day.



Note 1 Recent booklength studies of the New York Intellectuals include: Alexander Bloom, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); Terry A. Cooney, The Rise of the New York Intellectuals: Partisan Review and Its Circle (Madison: Univer­ sity of Wisconsin Press, 1986); Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Leftfrom the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); and Neil Jumonville, Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Postwar America (Oxford: University of California Press, 1991) (please note that subsequent refer­ ences to Jumonville’s work are to the doctoral dissertation on which his book is based). Bloom's book concentrates on the Intellectuals’ ethnicity and ethnic assimilation; Cooney’s on their cosmopolitanism; Wald’s on their engagement with Trotskyism, and subsequent deradlcalisation; and Jumonville’s on their adoption of more pragmatic, pluralistic ideals in the post-War period.

Acknowledgements I owe a great many thanks: to Hugh Tulloch of Bristol University for first inspiring my interest in American intellectual history; Rich­ ard Maltby of Exeter University for supervising the doctoral thesis on which this book is based w ith exemplary dedication, sympathy and insight; other members of Exeter’s American and Common­ w ealth Arts Department, in particular Richard Bradbury and Mick Gidley, for providing such a stim ulating and supportive research environment; num erous other scholars on both sides of the Atlantic for offering advice, information and encouragement, including Marc Cole-Bailey, Terry A. Cooney, Michael Heale, James Gilbert, Mark Jancovich, Neil Jumonville, Richard King, Stephen A. Longstaff, Inderjeet Parm ar, Joseph Smith, Alan Wald and Ruth Vasey; Daniel Aaron, William Barrett, Daniel Bell and William Phillips for generously granting me personal interviews; my current colleagues in the American Studies Set at Middlesex University for their comments and comradeship; Jane Thorniley-W alker of M anchester University Press for her confidence in my proposal and her care w ith my manuscript; the staff of the libraries and archives where I carried out my research, both in Britain and the United States, particularly the librarians of Exeter University, for their assistance; and the two institutions which funded my postgraduate studies, Exeter University and the British Academy, for their sponsorship. Finally, I wish to thank all the members of my family for w hat they have given to this book, sometimes w ithout even knowing it, but particularly my wife, Heidi Wilford, for her tolerance and hum our, and my parents, for their interest and understanding. I am grateful to the following libraries for permission to publish extracts from their m anuscript collections: the Rare Book and M anuscript Library, Columbia University (Lionel Trilling Papers and Richard Chase Papers); the M anuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton Univerity Libraries (R. P. Blackmur Papers and Allen Tate Papers); the Yale Collection



of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and M anuscript Library, Yale University (Delmore Schwartz Papers and Southern Review Papers); and M anuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library (Dwight Macdonald Papers). The following individuals have kindly allowed me to quote from m anuscript collections: Daniel Bell (American Committee for Cultural Freedom Papers, Tamiment Institute Library, New York University), Barbara Dupee (F. W. Dupee Papers, the Rare Book and M anuscript Library, Columbia University) and Joseph Frank (R. P. Blackmur Papers).

P ro lo g u e

The rise of the New York Intellectuals It is significant th at historians and critics hardly ever refer to the New York Intellectuals as a movement or as a school, preferring instead the label ‘community’. The former terms suggest a degree of purposefulness and single-mindedness which the Intellectuals in practice lacked. This point can be illustrated simply by listing some of the individuals who are usually categorised as New York Intellectuals: Philip Rahv, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Mary McCarthy, Clement Greenberg, Dwight Macdonald, Sidney Hook. The range of different intellectual concerns and values represented by this list is extremely diverse. W hat unites these individuals is not allegiance to a single political or aesthetic idea, in which case the designation ‘movement’ would be justified, but a common historical experience. ‘Community’ best conveys a sense of the Intellectuals as a professional subculture, a specific social entity.1 The formative experience of this intellectual community was one of marginality. The geographical location of New York City and a national tradition of anti-intellectualism suggest themselves immediately as two reasons why the New York Intellectuals m ight be described as marginal. However, there are other factors w orth considering as well. Most of the Intellectuals were the child­ ren of Jewish Eastern European inunigrants, reared in the ghetto districts of New York City’s neighbourhoods during the 1910s and 1920s. Hence they had enormous social obstacles to surm ount merely to gain admission to, let alone achieve status in, American society. Their situation was not made any easier by the economic conditions which greeted them when they left college in the early 1930s and began looking for work. Many of them had planned to teach in the universities. The Depression, combined w ith the genteel anti-Semitism still prevalent in many university English departments, cheated most of academic careers.2 Lacking



institutional affiliations, they were compelled by necessity to eke a subsistence livelihood on the economic m argins of American society. Given this experience of economic and social m arginalisation, it was perhaps predictable th at the young Intellectuals would experi­ m ent w ith various modes of protest and dissent: num erous socio­ logists, most notably Karl Mannheim, have noted how the marginalised intellectual typically 'assumes a defiant attitude and develops contravening models of thought and behavior’, while history provides many examples of the connection between intel­ lectual unemployment and radical activism.3 In the New York Intellectuals’ case, Marxism illuminated the causes of the economic crisis which had so disrupted their lives and, moreover, offered the prospect of a radical transform ation of the society which had marginalised them. Not only that, membership of the organised American Communist movement provided them, in their state of institutional detachm ent, w ith many practical advantages, such as access to publishing outlets. Most im portantly, though, the M arxist-Leninist concept of an intellectual vanguard, a cadre of 'professional revolutionaries’ charged w ith the task of raising prole­ tarian consciousness, equipped the Intellectuals w ith an ideal model of intellectual community, one which assured them a leading role in the revolutionary future. After all, were not the Bolsheviks who had led the Communist revolution in Czarist Russia m arginal intellectuals just like themselves? Nevertheless, the Intellectuals were in one im portant respect different from the majority of American Communists: they were anti-Stalinists. As the 1930s unfolded they grew disenchanted with Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union, and correspondingly sympa­ thetic with the fate of the exiled intellectual Trotsky, until by 1937 they had decisively broken w ith the Stalinist leadership of the American Communist Party. Insofar as the Party constituted a counter-institution, the Intellectuals’ defection from it m ight be viewed as their one deliberate act of institutional disaffiliation. Cer­ tainly it was a crucial step towards the formation of the New York Intellectual community. Anti-Stalinism remained a unifying force and a ruling passion for the Intellectuals long after the 1930s. While continuing to avow radical politics, they busied themselves writing essays designed to expose the theoretical errors of Stalinism, and forming committees to protest Soviet violations of

The rise o f the N ew Y ork Intellectuals


hum an freedoms. They still perceived themselves as a vanguard but now as a purified and, crucially, autonomous vanguard. Of course M arxist-Lenlnism or Trotskyism were not the only traditions of dissent from bourgeois civilisation available to the Intellectuals. In the years following their break with the Commu­ nist Party they also began to make increasing use of the concept of the cultural avant-garde, depicting themselves as heirs to the great Modernist tradition bequeathed by the novelists and poets of the 1910s and 1920s. There were, it seemed to them, startling correspondences between the suffering and loneliness of the alien­ ated modern artist and their own experience of m arginalisation. For example, Philip Rahv might just as well have been recounting the history of the Intellectual community when he described the Modernist movement in the following terms: The avant-garde has attempted to ward off the ravages of alienation in a num ber of ways: by means of developing a tradition of its own and cultivating its own group norms and standards, by resisting the bourgeois incentives to accommodation, and perforce making a virtue of its separateness from society.4 Consequently m uch of the Intellectual community’s energy was devoted to a critical celebration of the artistic accomplishments of Modernism. Many Intellectuals now regarded their main duty to be not so m uch the creation of a revolutionary situation as the protection of Modernist literature from the contam inating influ­ ences of both capitalism and Stalinism. Thus they enshrined the paradigm of the cultural avant-garde as an essential component of their communal identity. Confined to the margins of American society, the Intellectuals had resourcefully constructed a usable tradition for themselves from vanguardist elements of Marxism and Modernism, one which privileged marginality. In the meantime, however, the m arginal phase of the Intellectual com munity’s history was drawing to a close. The ‘rise’ of the New York Intellectuals in the period 1940-60 m ust be viewed in the context of certain fundam ental changes in the US economy and society. During and after the Second World W ar American industry, stim ulated by federal spending on arm am ents, staged an am azing recovery from the recession of the 1930s. Between 1947 and 1960 the gross national product more than doubled.s Most of



this growth was achieved not in the old, heavy, ’smokestack’ m anu­ facturing sector, but in new, light, high-technology and service industries. Inevitably the shift towards w hat Daniel Bell called the ’post-industrial’ economy impacted on employment patterns. As the num ber and importance of semi- and unskilled blue-collar jobs declined, demand for a trained, technically proficient workforce increased. Consequently American higher education underw ent a massive expansion. In 1940 the total num ber of students enrolled at universities and colleges in the US was approximately 1.5 mil­ lion; by 1950 th at num ber had swelled to 2.3 million, and by 1960 to 3.6 million.6 In addition to being better educated than the old workforce, the ’New Class’ of knowledge workers (as Bell and others referred to it) was better paid and more leisured. Hence many Americans now enjoyed vastly improved recreational oppor­ tunities. Finally, the post-W ar period witnessed a massive migra­ tion from the cities to the suburbs - by 1960, some 40 or 50 million urbanites had moved out of tow n.7 Inevitably, patterns of cultural production and consumption altered as a result. These developments worked indirectly to the advantage of the New York Intellectuals. The expansion of higher education, for example, created a vast new range of occupational openings for them. In 1940, there were about 150,000 faculty members in American universities and colleges; by 1960, th at figure had risen to over 380,000.8 Meanwhile, academic anti-Semitism had de­ clined markedly. Consequently the doors of academe were gradu­ ally opened to admit the Intellectuals. Although most of them lacked such qualifications as Ph.Ds, they did have certain expertise which made them immensely attractive to academic employers. Ironically, the Intellectuals owed the success they belatedly enjoyed in the universities to the knowledge of Modernism they had acquired during the 1930s and early 1940s. In the years after the Second World W ar the works of Modernist writers such as Eliot and Joyce began to be incorporated in academic curricula and previously disreputable poems such as The Waste Land and novels like Ulysses enshrined in the literary canons. By the 1960s, most of the Intel­ lectuals occupied prestigious posts at elite universities.9 As one literary historian has remarked, somewhat sourly, the typical Intel­ lectual was, after the 1950s, ’a professor w ithout a Ph.D’.10 The universities were not the only cultural institutions for whom the Intellectuals' knowledge of modern literature suddenly acquired

The rise o f the N ew York Intellectuals


an unexpected utility. During this period the publishing industry was expanding at a prodigious rate. Automation and technological advances (such as the photocomposition of pages, as opposed to the old method of setting print by hand) had speeded up book production, as well as reducing its costs. During and after the W ar (despite a brief lull in the mid-1940s), the demand for books rose rapidly. In 1940 personal expenditure on books and maps am ounted to $234 million, in 1950 $674 million and by 1960, $1,304 million.11 Literary tastes were changing as well. Educa­ tional changes combined w ith increases in leisure time to produce a demand for ‘serious’ or ’provocative’ reading. Publishers detected in the booming suburbs a vast commercial m arket for ‘highbrow’, experimental literature. Previously, only small firms like New Directions had taken an interest in such writing. Now major houses such as Random House and Viking, Harcourt, Brace began to merchandise the products of the Modemist avant-garde. The publishers did not embark on this course w ithout first consulting w ith experts. Not only could the New York Intellectuals advise them about the work of European Modernists, they could also introduce them personally to talented young American experi­ m ental writers. By now, New York was the undisputed capital of the American publishing industry. Of the leading houses, only two, Little, Brown and Houghton Mifflin, were based elsewhere (in Boston). In this respect, then, the Intellectuals had an enormous advantage over other intellectual groups aspiring to national prominence. Over the course of this period, almost all of the Intel­ lectuals carried out at least some consultancy work for publishing houses. Several of them, most notably Lionel Trilling, exercised considerable influence over young editors. Nor was this the only service the Intellectuals performed for New York publishers. In addition to consultancy work, they wrote introductions to new editions of modem classics, fronted commercial ventures such as book clubs (Trilling was president of Readers’ Subscription and Mid Century), and made books of their own available for republication and marketing for a college audience (Anchor Books, a subdivision of Doubleday, specialised in this area).13 By the mid-1950s, the Intellectuals had acquired the status of literary celebrities. Throughout all this they were undoubtedly aided by the United States’ historic lack of a cultural ‘establishm ent’: th at is, a single institutionalised intellectual formation capable of dominating high



cultural discourse and regulating high cultural production like, say, Oxbridge and Bloomsbury in England. During the late nine­ teenth and early tw entieth centuries, the literati of the city of Boston to some extent possessed this kind of power. However, with the steady growth of cultural institutions in other cities, and the appearance of regional literary movements, the Bostonians’ hold on the culture was gradually weakened. This enabled a num ber of different groups ’to break into the central spaces of American culture’ and acquire some of the characteristics of a cultural establishm ent.13 In the 1950s, the New York Intellectuals’ proximity to the metropolitan headquarters of the leading Ameri­ can publishing houses and other literary media enabled them to dictate a large portion of the national high cultural agenda. From the point of view of cultural institutions such as the univ­ ersities and publishing industry, the Intellectuals’ value lay in their literary expertise. The American state conceived of a different use for them. During the late 1940s, when anti-Communism became a cardinal principle of United States foreign policy, the Intellectuals’ record of sophisticated and m ilitant opposition to Stalinism earned them the attention of government officials. While their strategic recommendations were not always valued as such, their skills as political polemicists and their reputations as independent freethinking intellectuals were. In the 1950s the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency enlisted the New York Intellectuals in an effort to open a cultural front in the US’s Cold W ar w ith the Soviet Union. In the course of the ‘Cultural Cold W ar’ the Intel­ lectuals concerned travelled abroad to lecture European and Asian audiences on the folly of neutralism in the struggle between the superpowers, and help edit literary magazines w ith a pro-American and anti-Soviet orientation. This, then, was the historical background to the New York Intel­ lectuals’ rise to prominence in the Cold W ar era. During the 1930s, institutional contraction caused by economic recession m eant that the Intellectuals were prevented from pursuing conventional careers; they formed, in effect, an intellectual surplus. Conse­ quently, they banded together and constructed a distinctive iden­ tity for themselves as an intellectual vanguard, based primarily on Modernism and anti-Stalinism. Afterwards, as the US entered a period of unprecedented prosperity, the institutions were better able to absorb the Depression intellectual surplus. The Intellectuals'

N otes


knowledge of Modernism and Communism made them particularly attractive to institutions. As Philip Rahv succinctly put it in 1952: [I]t is imperative not to overlook so direct and concrete a factor as the long spell of prosperity th at America has enjoyed since the War. It has at long last effected the absorption of the intellectuals into the institutional life of the country.14

Notes 1 For a discussion of recent disagreements surrounding the meaning of the term ‘New York Intellectual’, see below, chapter 1. 2 One estimate places the total number of Jewish faculty members employed at American institutions of higher education in 1935 at not more than 500. See Stephen A. Longstaff, ‘The New York Intellectuals: A Study of Particularism and Universalism’, diss., UCLA. 1978, 112. 3 Quoted in Robert J. Brym, Intellectuals and Politics (London: Allen, 1980) 15. Intellectuals’ involvement in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 was associated with oversupply of educated persons relative to the number of intellectual jobs available in Germany and France. Much the same was true of several European countries during the Depression of the 1930s. This tendency would seem to be particularly marked in cases of Intellec­ tuals who are denied employment or otherwise excluded from the insti­ tutional life of their countries because of their ethnicity. Intellectuals who belonged to ethnic or national minorities in pre-Second World War Europe contributed disproportionately large numbers of recruits to the Commu­ nist movement. As Robert Michels wrote of the European Jews: ‘social oppression, especially as expressed in the numerus clausus in the univer­ sities . . . caused them to suffer keenly at the hands of prejudiced authori­ ties . . . Other groups of intellectuals who have suffered from similar discrimination have shown comparable trends to radicalism of varying degrees.’ Brym, Intellectuals 17. 4 Philip Rahv, ‘Our Country and Our Culture’, Partisan Review 19 (1952): 309-10. 5 Hugh Brogan, Longman History of the United States (New York: Long­ man, 1985) 607. 6 United States, Bureau of the Census, The Statistical History of the United States From Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Basic, 1976) 383. 7 Samuel Eliot Morrison, Henry Steele Commager and William E. Leuchtenberg, A Concise History of the American Republic, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983) 705.


N otes

8 Statistical History 385. 9 The Intellectuals’ movement Into academic employment is docu­ mented ln Longstaff, ‘New York Intellectuals’, 387-92. 10 Grant Webster, The Republic of Letters: A History of Postwar Literary Opinion (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. 1979) 240. 11 Statistical History 401. 12 Richard Kostelanetz, The End of Intelligent Writing: Literary Politics in America (New York: Sheed, 1973) 52-4. 13 Irving Howe, il Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (Lon­ don: Seeker, 1983) 181. 14 Rahv, ’Our Country’, 306.


The New York Intellectuals: a defence and a critique The New York Intellectuals ‘rose* because they had been institu­ tionalised. And there was the rub. For, like most other modern western intellectual movements, the Intellectuals believed above all in the principle of independence: their ideal paradigm of intel­ lectual community was the non-institutlonalised vanguard, or avant-garde. Others of their values and concerns changed dram a­ tically over subsequent decades. However, their devotion to the principle of independence never wavered. The Intellectuals always aspired to the condition of the non-institutionalised vanguard/ avant-garde, absolutely free from entangling social ties, perfectly independent. Hence their institutionalisation during the 1950s was tantam ount to a repudiation of their most basic intellectual belief. This contradiction was bound to cause later intellectual gener­ ations to regard the New York Intellectuals w ith some ambivalence. On the left at least the Intellectuals possess a double-edged reput­ ation, one which privileges the earlier over the later stages of their group career. The conventional leftist narrative of Intellectual his­ tory, one repeated in m uch scholarship on the subject, is less one of rise than of decline, or fall. The tendency is to depict the 1930s as a time of heroic integrity, w ith the Intellectuals, independent not only of institutions but also of counter-institutions like the Stalinist Communist Party, embodying the ideal intellectual type of the detached, free-floating dissident. This period of unrivalled personal courage and ideological correctitude does not last, how­ ever. During the 1950s the Intellectuals, out of a combination of faintheartedness and opportunism, conspired to betray their radical heritage by 'selling out’ to the institutions. The aim of this Introduction is to problématisé the traditional leftist view of the New York Intellectuals by suggesting first th at the Intellectuals’ institutionalisation was inevitable, and second



th at their original position, th at of autonom ous vanguard, was itself deeply flawed. I Viewed even in its widest historical context, the institutionalisation of the New York Intellectuals appears as inevitable. It is a common­ place of functionalist sociology th at the modem era has seen the professionalisation of the western intellectual, th at (in the words of Edward Shils) ‘the trend in the present century . . . has been toward an increasing incorporation of intellectuals in organised institutions’.1 The emergence of industrial capitalism and the accompanying growth of the centralised, bureaucratic state in the mid- to late nineteenth century created an increased demand on the part of industry and government for m anagers, scientists, educators and propagandists. Consequently patronage of intel­ lectual activity passed out of the hands of the aristocracy into those of industrialists and bureaucrats. ‘As a group,’ writes Christopher Lasch, 'intellectuals achieved a semiofficial status which assigned them professional responsibility for the m achinery of education and cultural affairs in general.’2 In the US this process of professionalisation was interrupted by the Depression of the 1930s, but resumed w ith the post-W ar upturn in the economy. Indeed the growth in the service sector th a t oc­ curred in this period increased the need for technically competent, trained knowledge workers, so th at if anything the rate of profes­ sionalisation accelerated. At the same time the outbreak of Cold W ar led to an intensification of the pressures acting on American intellectuals. The founding of political research units at leading universities and the traffic of defence experts between the Pentagon and Boston were merely the most visible instances of a massive effort by the ‘m ilitary-industrial complex’ to organise the nation’s intellectual production on a Cold W ar footing. Absorption into institutions was the inexorable fate of American intellectuals in the 1950s. In the case of the New York Intellectuals m atters were made worse still by local conditions. During the Depression the Intellec­ tuals had not needed institutional employment as low living costs enabled them to subsist on earnings from tem porary jobs or private incomes. A series of interstitial spaces had opened in the economy

A defence and a critique


in which institutionally non-affiliated or ‘bohem ian’ intellectuals could reside. The rise in the cost of living associated w ith the post­ w a r economic boom, nowhere sharper than in New York, had the effect of sealing these spaces. To quote the novelist Isaac Rosenfeld, ‘the rent has gone up in Bohemia, and it’s only the advertising men who can afford to live in the studios’.3 Then there were the problems recently documented by Russell Jacoby in The Last Intel­ lectuals: the purchasing of cheap urban housing stock by real estate developers, the decay of New York’s public utilities caused by the post-W ar exodus of white-collar workers to the suburbs, the gen­ eral destruction of the ‘public intellectual’s’ metropolitan habi­ tat.4 The result of all these changes was th at intellectuals w anting to stay in New York during the 1950s had no choice but to obtain perm anent institutional employment. These presumably were the sorts of pressures Rosenfeld was thinking of when he wistfully commented: ‘It is so hard, you know, to stay in the garret.’3 Adding to these institutionalising processes was an even more particular, one m ight say intim ate, pressure on the New York Intellectuals’ autonomy, namely ethnic assimilation. As (mostly) second-generation Jewish-Americans, the Intellectuals were power­ fully motivated to assimilate into American society. During the Depression they were, however, deflected from their assimilationist trajectory by institutional contraction and, to a certain extent, antiSemitism. Stranded between the subculture of their parents and the dom inant gentile ethnic culture, they sought and found refuge in a radical intellectual community. As the national economy re­ vived in the period during and after the Second World W ar, the assimilation of minority ethnic groups regained momentum. Jews in particular enjoyed vastly improved economic and social oppor­ tunities. The urge to take them was enormously strong. It should be noted in this connection th at a sizeable m inority of Intellectuals hailed not from the Jewish im m igrant milieu but rather from relatively privileged gentile backgrounds. As well as enriching and enlarging the scope of Intellectual discourse, the presence of these gentiles lent plausibility to the com munity’s avowed allegiance to cosmopolitan values. However, as the pres­ sure on the separatist identity of the Intellectuals mounted, the community was shaken by a series of disputes and defections which seem to have followed along roughly social and ethnic lines. Generally speaking, the gentile Intellectuals were more reluctant



than their Jewish colleagues to abandon political radicalism in favour of cultural avant-gardism; also, they were less inclined to desist from criticism of American society and culture. In short, their political radicalism was comparatively robust and resilient. This difference m ight be attributed to the fact th at the gentiles were on the whole w ealthier than the Jews, and therefore were better able to w ithstand the drift towards institutional employment. Still, It is also w orth considering th at the gentiles were not motivated by the same assimilationist drives as the Jews. In any case it should be acknowledged that, contrary to alleg­ ations of a ‘sell out’, the New York Intellectuals did not give in to institutionalisation w ithout a struggle, th at some at least strove to m aintain their independence of institutions and discharge their function as critical dissidents in this period. Certainly they did not go from being Depression M arxist-Leninists to Cold W ar ‘liberal anti-Communists’ overnight, as some accounts would have us believe: their ideological development was far more complex than that, including as it did detours into democratic socialism and even, as we shall see, anarcho-pacifism.7 Moreover, the Intel­ lectuals’ loyalty to the doctrine of independence was such that they felt considerable disquiet about their new institutional location. After interviewing several of them around this time the critic A1 Alvarez formed the impression th at ‘the shift from alien­ ation to status . . . induced in most of them . . . a profound unease’.8 These misgivings constantly hampered institutional at­ tempts to ‘use’ the Intellectuals. The relation between Intellectual and institution was never harm onious. Instead it was fraught w ith tension and conflict. There is no shortage of evidence to support the claim th at the New York Intellectuals’ institutionalisation was inevitable. To be­ gin w ith there is the Intellectuals’ own testimony. Throughout this period members of the Intellectual community testified con­ stantly, and w ith increasing desperation, to the precariousness of their separatist position. This was a consequence not only of forces pushing bohemians from behind, of the sort described by Isaac Rosenfeld above, but also of institutions’ growing efficiency at absorbing independent intellectual activity. Indeed, the Intel­ lectuals appear to have suspected some sort of monolithic conspir­ acy designed to recuperate all forms of cultural and political expression. Saul Bellow, for example, had difficulty imagining an

A defence and a critique


artw ork th at could not be 'incorporated into the general cultural effort of the country and be richly rewarded’.9 Likewise William Phillips believed th at institutions were capable of taking ’any­ thing’, no m atter how ’extreme or serious’, and rendering it ’palat­ able’.10 Young writers especially, it seemed to Intellectual observers, were vulnerable to institutional recuperation. Com­ pared w ith the intellectual generation of the Depression 1930s, the opportunities available to the ’Children of the Fattening Fifties’ (Wallace Markfield’s phrase) were embarrassingly plentiful. ‘To their lot fell the Foundation plums, the berths on the better maga­ zines and book-houses, the research sinecures.’11 Institutions even provided these young writers with the chance to go through the motions of institutional disaffiliation: In a fantastic way, all the traditional strategies of the intellectual for evading the pressures of this world are transformed into subsidised programmes. Expatriation (renamed, of course, the Prix de Rome or Year-after-Year Abroad) is financed w ith the same even-handed munificence th at sponsors a scholarly study of population pressures.12 As Isaac Rosenfeld summed it up, the *avant-garde is now replaced by the institutions th at can take over [its] functions’.13 There is also the example of another even more m arginal intel­ lectual group to consider. During the 1930s the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research was transplanted from Nazi Germany to New York and reestablished under the auspices of Columbia University. The Jewish M arxist-M odemists of the Frankfurt School regarded themselves as a ’saving rem nant’ of German civilisation, and were fiercely determined to m aintain their independence of American institutions - m uch as in Germany they had forsworn affiliation w ith reformist mass political parties and the organised Communist movement.14 However, during the Second World W ar, as their land endowments in New York shrank, and they began to support the Allied w ar effort, leading Frankfurt theoreticians like Leo Lowenthal and Herbert Marcuse took jobs w ith government agen­ cies (Marcuse for the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA). In the years after the W ar, those ’Critical Theorists’ who did not return to Germany but chose to stay behind in the US obtained full-time, perm anent academic posts, mainly at Columbia and Brandéis (also the two leading academic employers of New



York Intellectuals). Hence, to quote Lewis Coser, ‘while they had fiercely resisted absorption into American society during the first ten years or so of their stay, they were at least partly absorbed afterward’.15 II The most effective way of dem onstrating the inevitability of the New York Intellectuals’ institutionalisation is to invoke the m aterial history of their magazines. The historical importance of these maga­ zines cannot be overstated. For one thing, they were the Intellectual com munity’s favourite medium of publication (the Intellectuals’ preference for the essay over the book form, incidentally, invites another comparison w ith the Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School). Hence they represent an indispensable primary source for the historian, an astonishingly comprehensive, ongoing record of the Intellectuals’ development. But their significance does not end there, as docum entation. During the 1930s, after the Intellectuals grouped together and formed a community independent of both institutional and counter-institutional control, they lacked access to the services normally provided by institutions. In this vacuum, their magazines gradually acquired responsibility for the provision of such services as regulation of community membership, and moni­ toring of relations w ith other intellectual groups. In effect, they became institutions for the Intellectual community. Or, put another way, they were the Intellectual community, institutionalised. Despite the power and prestige these magazines commanded in their role as New York Intellectual institutions, there was one re­ spect in which they were quite feeble: they could not survive on a financially independent basis. A num ber of factors contributed to this state of affairs, including uncompetitive promotion and distrib­ ution practices, lack of advertising revenue and prohibitively high production costs. The single most im portant cause of the Intellec­ tual magazines’ impecunity, however, was the simple fact th a t they were not originally conceived as commercial ventures. Their primary purpose was to publish writings by Intellectuals; readership was a secondary, one might say incidental, concern. Hence they reversed the priorities of the commercial, mass-circulation magazine, for whom readers, not contributors, m attered most. Doomed inevitably to operating deficits, Intellectual magazines had

A defence and a critique


no choice but to seek some means of external financial support, in other words, to obtain patronage. And here their problems began. Like the Modernist ‘little maga­ zines’ after which they were partly modelled, the New York Intel­ lectuals’ magazines lived by the ideal of editorial independence, the freedom to print w hatever they wanted to print. Yet dependence on patronage m eant th a t their editorial freedom was not absolute, for the danger was always present th at patrons m ight seek to control editorial policy by threatening to discontinue their support - or th at the editors themselves might censor their magazine, for fear of offending their patrons. The ideal solution, of course, was for the editors themselves to provide the money needed to keep the magazine going - then the problem of patronage did not arise. Failing that, they might seek the support of some wealthy and sympathetic individual. Although there was no guarantee that ’angels’, as individual patrons became known, might not behave whimsically or dictatorially, their patronage was preferable to the third option available to editors, w hich was to secure the assistance of an institution such as a university, foundation or publishing house. Despite its many practical advantages - unheard of financial security, assistance at most stages of production and so on institutional patronage was nevertheless regarded as profoundly undesirable, for obvious reasons. A magazine representing a com­ m unity of institutionally unaffiliated intellectuals could hardly form a patronage relationship with, and hence become obligated to, an institution. In a sense, the Intellectual community only existed in its magazines: if they were institutionalised, then th at community would cease to exist. Quite apart from this obvious contradiction, institutional patronage also entailed m any practical problems. An individual patron could take part personally in negotiation of the patronage relationship. How, though, was an editor supposed to gauge the attitudes of an institution, except by proceeding so cautiously as to risk dullness and conformism? In short, individuals were the most appropriate source of patronage for the magazines of the New York Intellectuals. Yet in the period during and after the Second World W ar potential individual magazine patrons grew so scarce as to become almost extinct. This development was not confined to New York, but was rather part of a national trend in cultural patronage generally, and of little magazine sponsorship in particular. Individual patronage



of avant-garde cultural production had never, in the first place, been as readily available in America as it had in Europe. The Euro­ pean avant-garde was composed largely of Gramscian ‘traditional intellectuals’, members of a rentier class living off an ‘accum ulation of precapitalist prestige, originally endowed by aristocratic patron­ age’.16 The US, of course, historically lacked an aristocracy, and comparable formations of residual cultural authority. Hence Ameri­ can business had less incentive than its European counterpart to patronise the avant-garde: it did not need the prestige of culture to legitimate and ratify its social power. This is not to say th at indi­ vidual patronage was completely unavailable to American Mod­ ernists. ‘Old Money’, the accumulated capital of the nineteenth century plutocracy, constituted a reservoir of cultural patronage not dissimilar to the inherited wealth of the European aristocracy. During the late nineteenth century, informal networks of private patrons, usually the dependants of industrialists, financiers or mer­ chants, sprang up in American cities and lavished money on the arts. In Chicago, for example, a group of leading citizens helped launch the so-called ‘Chicago Renaissance’ by founding a host of major cultural institutions, among them the prototypical little magazine Poetry, which as well as publishing the early work of Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound performed such institutional func­ tions as the feeding and clothing of indigent poets.17 Nonetheless, the fact remains th at American business did not need culture. W hen in the years following the Second World W ar the costs of little magazine production increased in line w ith the general rise in price levels, the Chicagoan patrons of Poetry retrenched, w ith the result th at the magazine descended into a state of perm anent financial crisis, (in 1947 its operating deficit stood at $20,000), and only survived the late 1940s and early 1950s thanks to a series of emer­ gency grants from the Bollingen Foundation.1* Conditions, though, were worst in post-W ar New York. Spiralling office rents combined with the effects of a series of print union victories in pay disputes to ensure th at the costs of magazine production rose faster on M anhattan Island than anyw here else in the US.19 Added to this, the repressive political atm osphere of the early 1950s militated against the survival of a civic literary culture which still bore traces of Depression radicalism. Would-be individ­ ual patrons now not only had to take into account rising financial costs but social and political risks as well. Finally, one has to

A defence and a critique


consider a peculiar characteristic of the city's cultural topography recently observed by the historian Thomas Bender. According to Bender, New York’s civic culture suffered in this period from a wound inflicted on it during the Depression, when a divide had opened up between the city’s literary intellectuals on the one hand (later identified as the New York Intellectuals) and its leading patrons and practitioners of the visual and performing arts on the other. The former came from straitened backgrounds and lived in downtown M anhattan, while the latter - the ’Civic Intellectuals’, in Bender’s terminology - were the scions of a wealthy, established stratum of New York society and inhabited the Island’s Upper East Side. As a result of this geographic and social divide, the Civic Intellectuals, the main private source of cultural patronage in the city, overlooked the literary ventures of the New York Intellectuals, while at the same time assisting in the founding of such institutions as the Museum of Modem Art and the City Ballet.20The florescence of the visual and aural culture stimulated by the patronage of the Civic Intellectuals might be likened to the Chicago Renaissance, except in this case the literary dimension represented by Poetry magazine was missing. Late in the 1950s there were indications of a rapprochement between New York’s literary intellectuals and cultural patrons. In meeting places like the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village, a studio owned by the painter Grace H artigan and the apartm ent of poet LeRoi Jones, gallery owners and theatrical im­ presarios robbed shoulders w ith new literary avant-gardists such as the Beats and the poets of the New York School.21 The multimedia contents of the little magazines which resulted from these encounters indicated an attem pt to mend the split between New York’s literary and visual arts. Nevertheless, these developments occurred too late to benefit the magazines of the New York Intel­ lectual community. As the reserves of individual patronage available to Intellectual magazines dwindled, so a num ber of new patrons began to volun­ teer their support: such institutions as universities, foundations and publishing houses. Again this development needs to be considered in a national context, as affecting all American little magazines, not just the publications of the New York Intellectuals. The chief agent of the institutionalisation of the little magazine was the university. Before 1945 academic patronage of little magazines was limited mainly to the publications of the Southern



Agrarians/New Critics, the Southern, Kenyon and Sewanee Reviews. In the years after the War, however, as American universities multiplied in number, grew in size, and incorporated a variety of previously non-academic practices and discourses, such as creative writing and literary criticism, the num ber of campus-based little magazines rose dram atically.22 Academic patronage usually m eant assistance at every stage of production. Editors were granted use of such facilities as faculty offices and the university’s printing press, and provided with editorial and secretarial personnel from the academic staff and student body. The editorship itself effectively became an academic post, endowed w ith a professorial salary. Despite these remarkable m aterial advantages, the 1950s witnes­ sed the steady growth of opposition to academic patronage in liter­ ary circles, especially amongst younger writers, which culminated in a series of dram atic confrontations between editors and univer­ sity authorities.23 Still, the trend towards academicisation contin­ ued. A random sampling of a selective directory of little magazines compiled in the 1970s (one probably biased in favour of inde­ pendent publications) indicates th at the majority of such magazines were in receipt of some form of university assistance.24 Then came the foundations. Typically foundations were reluctant to play the role of angel: the little magazine’s reputation for factionalism, radicalism and chronic instability was hardly calculated to appeal to corporate philanthropy. In any case, litera­ ture ranked low down foundations’ list of funding priorities, below science and social science projects, and cultural activities th at afforded some opportunity for public participation.25 Nevertheless, a little magazine did stand some chance of attracting foundation patronage if it could, to quote one foundation president, ’serve a foundation purpose, serve as a policy arm, as it were’.26 In this context foundation purpose was usually defined to mean academic purpose: foundation assistance to little magazines during this period tended to be targeted at such university-affiliated ventures as John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review.27 However, during the 1950s the foundations discovered a second, political, use for the little magazine. Beginning in 1947 w ith the creation of the Cominform, Communist Russia had launched a highly effective propa­ ganda campaign in non-aligned nations around the world, and especially in western Europe, publicising recent Soviet advances in the arts and sciences. The American government’s response to this

A defence and a critique


Soviet Cultural Cold W ar offensive had been inhibited by, on the one hand, domestic political interference and, on the other, the strong presumption th at existed against official sponsorship of cultural activities for political purposes. In these circumstances foundations were prepared to assume the burden of cultural patronage on behalf of the state, and fund projects designed to increase ‘respect for America’s non-m aterialistic achievements among intellectuals abroad’.28 Hence in 1953 the Ford Foundation launched Magazines Abroad, a project involving the distribution of selected American little magazines to overseas libraries, and founded Perspectives USA, a sort of periodical digest of American literature, each issue assembled by a different guest editor, and published in four different languages.29 Eventually the Ford would drop Perspectives in the face of complaints from both American and European literary intellectuals about its ’inauthenticity’ (for exam­ ple, the British poet Stephen Spender described it as ’a poor little rich child of the Ford Foundation . . . a kind of Barbara H utton of literature’),30 but by the mid-1950s other American foundations, not to mention the American state itself, were prominently involved in Cultural Cold W ar patronage.31 This was the era when commercial publishers awoke to the possibility th at the merchandising of highbrow literature might earn them money as well as prestige. As they did so, they came to realise they had a vested interest in little magazines. For one thing, these publications performed the function of literary laboratories, pioneering formal innovations and discovering new talents. For another, the simple fact th at they existed at all helped preserve the crucial illusion th at an authentic avant-garde still operated in post­ w a r America. Consequently during the m id-1940s several publish­ ers began to take tentative steps towards little magazine patronage, by supporting a series of short story competitions.32 In the course of the following decade a num ber of publishing houses, using inhouse personnel and production facilities, launched their own little magazines, on a commercial basis: Pocket Books brought out Discovery, Avon New Voices, the New American Library New World Writing and Anchor Books The Anchor Review.33 These publications served a num ber of purposes: they performed the same functions as existing little magazines, but at a far cheaper cost; they earned their patrons prestige; and, most im portantly, they afforded publishing houses the opportunity to ‘capture’ talented young



writers. In the hands of the publishing industry, the little magazine had achieved cost-effectiveness. As before, independent literary intellectuals regarded these institutional inventions as inauthentic. For instance, (he staunchly avant-gardist New York Intellectual Isaac Rosenfeld sneeringly referred to The Anchor Review as th at ‘so-called little magazine’.34 During the post-W ar period institutions almost entirely usurped individuals as patrons of little magazines, including the magazines of the New York Intellectuals. This development did not occur all at once, according to some conscious institutional design. It was rather a slow, halting process, th at encountered m uch resistance from editors of the magazines affected, and merely reflected a growing institutional awareness of the potential utility of such publications, not some conspiratorial desire to domesticate the avant-garde. That said, the underlying trend was irreversible. As individual patrons disappeared, magazine editors, no m atter how determined they were to preserve their editorial independence, had little choice but to seek institutional sponsorship - petition a found­ ation for a grant, or beg the protection of some university. By 1960 almost all the magazines of the Intellectual community - the Intellectuals’ own institutions - had themselves been institution­ alised. Hence the fate of the New York Intellectuals was mirrored in the m aterial history of their magazines.lI Ill Clearly talk of the New York Intellectuals ‘cashing in’ during the Cold W ar era is misleading, not to say unfair: it ignores irresistible pressures on their separatist position, and attem pts by them to preserve their autonomy. Still, the fact rem ains th at the Intel­ lectuals were institutionalised during this period, th at they did lose their independence. Surely this indicates, at the very least, some basic error, some fundam ental miscalculation, on their part. At this point it is suggested th at the New York Intellectuals’ autonomous, vanguardist project was itself fatally misguided. First, there is the vanguard’s inherent tendency towards elitism and authoritarianism , manifested historically whenever it acquires actual political power, most obviously in post-revolutionary Russia. From the very beginning it was clear th at the New York Intellec­ tuals regarded themselves as constituting an elite. During the

A defence and a critique


1930s they rejected conventional reformist politics and bourgeois culture in favour of Communism and proletarianism , then rejected even these as unw orthy of their allegiance. Subsequently they con­ tinued to criticise the ‘official’ Communist movement while at the same time dismissing American political institutions and ‘mass culture’ as philistine and cretinous. As Norman Podhoretz put it later, the New York Intellectuals tried to ‘inoculate’ themselves, from kitsch, from middlebrowism, from commercialism, from mass culture, from academicism, from populism, from liberalism, from Stalinism; from Louis B. Mayer, from John Steinbeck, from George S. Kaufman, from J. Donald Adams, from Archibald MacLeish, from Irving Babbitt, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt.35 During the 1950s the Intellectuals’ attitude towards American society softened to such an extent that, in 1952, Partisan Review featured a symposium entitled (albeit w ith more than a hint of irony) ‘Our Country and Our Culture’. Still, the elitist impulse is detectible even here, in w hat is supposed to be the Intellectuals’ most affirmative statem ent of the Cold W ar era, w ith Philip Rahv for example exhorting his colleagues to ‘keep apart’ from American mass culture, and ‘refuse its favors’.36 Indeed, if anything the Intellectuals’ elitism intensified during the 1950s, as they began to fear the prospect of being reduced to the same level as the millions of other knowledge workers - the accountants, sales persons and so on - who w ent to make up the ‘New Class’. In particular they were dismayed by the new popu­ larity of the two causes they had long considered their special property, anti-Stalinism and Modernism. As Rahv observed, the anti-Stalinist socialists of the 1930s ‘had played a vanguard role in th at they were the first to discern the totalitarian essence of the Soviet m yth’. With the advent of the Cold War, however, this m inority cause had ‘virtually become the official creed of our entire society’.37 The anti-Stalinist vanguard had been dispossessed, rendered obsolete. A similar fate had befallen the cultural avantgarde. The academicisation and commodification of Modernism had, William Phillips alleged, ‘created a new intellectual bureau­ cracy’ of pseudo-experts ‘ready to challenge the authority of the old elite’.36 Realising the dangers to their own position implied by the success of anti-Stalinism and Modernism, the Intellectuals



stridently insisted on the uniqueness of their knowledge, even as other began to share it. For instance, they strove to distinguish their brand of anti-Communism from other variants of th at ideology prevalent at the time, such as the ‘cultural vigilantism’ of unscrupulous politicians like Joseph McCarthy, or the con­ fessional m illenarianism of recent converts to the cause like W hittaker Chambers.39 Similarly, they violently denounced ‘middle-’ and ‘lowbrow’ cultural technicians as well as such post­ modern literary tendencies as the Beat movement.40 Rather like autonom ous pre-industrial artisans, the Intellectuals dreaded the consequences of modernisation for their elite, privileged status. The New York Intellectuals’ elitism, then, is a m atter of welldocumented historical record. It is more difficult to make the charge of authoritarianism stick, if for no other reason than th at the Intel­ lectuals never exercised any real political authority. This brings the discussion round to the second great weakness in their peculiar brand of autonom ous vanguardism: their almost fetishistic obsession w ith intellectual independence. This obsession, the legacy of the Intellectuals’ rebellion against the Stalinist leadership of the American Communist movement, had many positive consequences. For example it prevented them from identifying too uncritically w ith any particular cause or party. However, it also had the unfortunate effect of causing them to sever their ties w ith other groups or constituencies, including the im m igrant commu­ nity where they had originated, who might have assisted them in carrying some of their radical political proposals into practice.41 The third major problem w ith the Intellectuals’ identity as a detached vanguard, and the one of most concern here, was th at it actually made them more, rather than less, susceptible to institutional recuperation. Let us deal first w ith the Intellectuals’ vanguardist identity in its cultural guise, th at of the cultural avant-garde. The Intellectuals supposed th at the relationship be­ tween the cultural avant-garde and cultural institutions was one of straightforward opposition, yet this was not in fact the case. Ever since the turn of the century, the American culture indus­ tries, in their quest to increase consumption, had used the avantgarde as their ‘research and development wing’, w atching as it ‘searche[d] areas of social practice not yet completely available to efficient m anipulation and [made] them discrete and visible’.42 The tru th of the m atter was th at there were significant homologies

A defence and a critique


between Modernism and consumerism: both for example rejected the separation of culture from everyday life th at had been imposed by the old production ethic. Modernism’s ’forms lent themselves to cultural competition and the commercial interplay of schools, styles and fashion so essential to the m arket’.43 As one advertising magazine noted: [Modernism] changes the fashions o v ernight. . . writes a damning ’out of date’ on yesterday’s favorite . . . and by boldly challenging the imagination, opens new avenues to the interest of the buying public - avenues which keen merchandisers are following apace.44 A similar point might be made w ith regard to the universities and professionalisation. A necessary precondition of professional form­ ation is a knowledge base, an autonom ous object of study. Modernism, with its emphasis on the autonomy of the art object, was in many im portant respects homologous w ith professionalism: ’The two belong to the same period, and almost any description of either term will set off reverberations in the semantic field of the other.’45 In short, both the culture industries and the universities, engaged in the tw in processes of consum erisation and professional­ isation, had reason to utilise the discoveries and inventions of the Modernist avant-garde. Hence when the Intellectuals adopted an avant-gardist identity they placed themselves in a far more complex and problematic relation to cultural institutions than they initially realised. Turning now to the political realm, and the New York Intel­ lectuals’ self-designation as an independent radical vanguard. The Intellectuals’ involvement in the Cultural Cold W ar is normally interpreted as a betrayal of all they previously stood for, particu­ larly their allegiance to the ideal of intellectual independence. W hat this picture of a drastic break w ith the past conceals are im portant continuities between the Intellectuals’ incarnations as autonomous vanguard and US Cold W ar propagandists. For example, it was precisely their reputation as independent antiStalinists th a t made them so attractive to the CIA. The fact th at they were free-thinking intellectuals who had formed their anti­ com m unist convictions independently m eant th at they could not be dismissed as mere functionaries; no anti-Soviet pronouncem ent by a State Department official could possess the cultural authority



of a similar utterance by an independent intellectual. Also, of course, there was the striking similarity between American Cul­ tural Cold W ar slogans - the defence of western cultural freedom from Communist tyranny and so on - and the Intellectuals’ long­ standing commitment to defending their own intellectual freedom. In sum, the Intellectuals’ devotion to independence had the para­ doxical effect of increasing their vulnerability to ’cooptation’ by the CIA. Finally, the Intellectuals’ decision to sever all ties w ith oppositional constituencies and counter-institutions so th at they might protect and defend their intellectual independence m eant th at they had no means of defence against official cooptation nowhere to retreat. Moreover, there were several im portant programmatic and rhet­ orical correspondences between the Intellectuals’ earlier existence as a vanguard of professional revolutionaries and the propagan­ d iste function they performed in the Cultural Cold War. Both roles, after all, involved a small group of intellectuals raising the consciousness of the masses. Indeed, it is even possible to trace a more or less direct line of organisational descent from the Cultural Cold W ar committees of the 1950s to earlier radical organisations in the Intellectual community.46 Not only that, the rhetoric of the Cultural Cold W ar was the same as in previous struggles, th at is m ilitant, confrontational, masculinist. In other words, one reason why the New York Intellectuals were able to complete the transition from revolutionary to legitimist w ithout experiencing too painful a sense of contradiction was the element of vanguardism common to both roles. Finally, it has to be said th at in the crucial ten year period after the Second World War, the New York Intellectuals generally showed not so m uch a failure of nerve as a failure of im agination by their refusal to consider alternatives to the vanguardist project. True, the recuperative forces acting on them at this time made theoretical or practical experimentation or innovation extremely difficult. Still, the Intellectuals themselves, w ith a few notable ex­ ceptions, failed even to entertain the possibility of a non-Leninist political radicalism. Similarly, in the cultural realm, their fixation with Modernism caused them to ignore or denigrate the post-mod­ ern. More generally, throughout their careers the Intellectuals showed themselves disappointingly insensitive to social oppressions which did not immediately affect themselves. One example is their

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failure to recognise gender as a political issue. Patriarchal assump­ tions constantly inscribe Intellectual discourse, most obviously in the repeated use of the male personal pronoun, less obviously in the whole notion of intellectual detachm ent. As Bruce Robbins has recently pointed out, the concept of the free-floating Luftmensch is itself highly gendered: the male intellectual is only able to float free because someone else, usually his wife, is doing domestic work on his behalf, and often supporting him financially as well.47 It is possible to view the formation in New York during the 1930s of a community of detached, institutionally unafllliated intellec­ tuals as a sort of historical accident. The Depression interrupted the processes th at should have obviated the need for such a com­ munity: the consumerisation of American society, the profession­ alisation of intellectuals, and the assimilation of ethnic minorities. When the US entered a period of prosperity in the 1940s, and hegemonic institutions resumed their expansion, the institutional­ isation of the New York Intellectuals became possible again, indeed inevitable. Accommodationism or betrayal hardly entered into it. This was rather a m atter of normalisation. The worst mistake the Intellectuals made was not to surrender their independence, but to assume th at such independence was possible.

Notes 1 Quoted in Robert J. Brym, Intellectuals and Politics (London: Allen, 1980) 18. 2 Christopher Lasch, The Agony of the American Left (New York: Vintage. 1968) 94. 3 Isaac Rosenfeld, ‘On the Role of the Writer and the Little Magazine’, Chicago Review 11.4 (1957): 4. 4 Russell Jacoby, 17ie Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (New York: Basic, 1987) 27-53. 5 Rosenfeld, ‘Role of the Writer’ 5. 6 For an account of the ethnic assimilation of the New York Intel­ lectuals, see Alexander Bloom, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). 7 For details of the New York Intellectuals’ experiments with demo­ cratic socialism during the 1950s, see the chapter on Irving Howe’s Dis­ sent in Maurice Isserman, If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left (New York: Basic, 1987) For details of Intellectuals and anarcho-paciflsm, see below, chapters 5 and 6.


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8 A. Alvarez, Under Pressure: The Writer in Society: Eastern Europe and the USA (Baltimore: Penguin, 1965) 117. 9 Quoted in Alvarez, Under Pressure 140. 10 William Phillips, ‘The American Establishment’, Partisan Review 26 (1959): 108. 11 Wallace Markfield, ‘Children of the Fattening Fifties: Our NonGeneration Revisited’, New Leader 18 March 1957: 21. 12 Leslie Fiedler, ‘The Un-Angry Young Men: America’s Postwar Generation’ Encounter 10.1 (1958): 5-6. 13 Rosenfeld, ‘Role of the Writer’ 11. 14 Lewis A. Coser, Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and Their Experiences (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984) 88. 15 Coser, Refugee Scholars 98. The similarities between the New York Intellectuals and the Frankfurt Critical Theorists are numerous and striking. Even individual members of the two groups invite comparison Philip Rahv and Max Horkheimer for example. Both men possessed considerable entrepreneurial talents and a strong sense of political prag­ matism combined with a principled determination not to compromise the independence of their respective intellectual communities. For a discussion of correspondences between the cultural criticism of the two groups during the 1940s, see below, chapter 2. 16 Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (London: Routledge. 1989) 62-3. 17 Michael Anania and Ralph J. Mills, Jr, ‘Karl Shapiro, An Interview on Poetry’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History, ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Klnzie (New York: Jonkers, 1978) 202-3: Joseph Paris!, ‘The Care and Funding of Pegasus’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 217-20. 18 Anania and Mills, ‘Karl Shapiro’ 208; Parisl, ‘Pegasus’ 222-30. When foundation money ran out, Poetry’s offices were moved first into the mansion of Adlai Stevenson’s ex-wife, Ellen, and then into the attic of the Newberry Library, where its staff drank vodka in the winter months in order to keep warm. 19 See below, chapters 4 and 6. 20 Thomas Bender, New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Ufe in New York, from 1750 to the Beginning of Our Own Time (New York: Knopf, 1987) chapter 9. 21 Dennis Barone, ‘Daisy Aldan: An Interview On Polder’, The Utile Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 270; Gilbert Sorrentino, ‘Neon, Kulchur, Etc.’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary

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History (New York: lookers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzle, 305-7. 22 For a detailed account of the ‘founding’ of literary criticism in American universities, see Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Instit­ utional History (London: Chicago University Press, 1987) 152-61. 23 For example, in 1958 both the Beloit Poetry Journal and the Chicago Review were censored by their academic sponsors after deciding to print ‘underground’ writing (West Coast poetry in the former case, excerpts from William Burrough’s Naked Lunch and work by several Beat poets in the latter). Both subsequently relaunched themselves as independent public­ ations, thereby reversing the process of institutionalisation in an act para­ digmatic of the youthful literary rebellions of the late 1950s. Peter Martin, ‘An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Little Magazines’, The Little Maga­ zine in America: A Modem Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 681; Felix Poliak, ‘An Interview on Little Magazines’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 37-8; Peter Michelson, ‘On Big Table, Chicago Review, and The Purple Sage', The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 348-52. 24 Martin, ‘Annotated Bibliography’ 666-750. 25 See the symposium on ‘Foundations and Magazines', which includes comments by magazine editors Allen Tate, Dwight Macdonald, Henry Rago, Roble Macauley and Paul Carroll, and several foundation officers, in Carleton Miscellany 4.2 (1963): 45-83. According to one esti­ mate made in the late 1970s, support for literature accounted for less than one percent of total foundation expenditure. Michael Ananla, ‘Of Living Belfry and Rampart: On American Literary Magazines Since 1950’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 18. 26 Walter Trenerry, ‘Foundations and Magazines’ 60. 27 See Graff, Professing Literature 157-8. 28 Ford Foundation internal memorandum, quoted in Kathleen D. McCarthy, ‘From Cold War to Cultural Development: The International Cultural Activities of the Ford Foundation, 1950-1980’, Daedalus 116 (1987): 97. 29 For further details of this venture, see Hugh Wilford, ‘Winning Hearts and Minds: American Cultural Strategies in the Cold War’, Border­ lines 1 (1994): 315-26. 30 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 26 January n.y., Allen Tate Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. 31 See below, chapter 8.


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32 During the mid-1940s Doubleday, Prentice-Hall and Dial Press collaborated with, respectively, Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review and Par­ tisan Review in a series of literary prize competitions. G. A. M. Janssens, The American Literary Review: A Critical History 1920-1950 (The Hague: Mouton, 1968) 251; Partisan Review 12 (1945): 5. 33 Jacoby, Last Intellectuals 74-5; Richard Kostelanetz, The End of Intelligent Writing: Literary Politics in America (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1973) 54. 34 Rosenfeld, 'Role of the Writer' 7. 35 Norman Podhoretz, Making It (New York: Random, 1969) 118. 36 Philip Rahv, ‘Our Country and Our Culture', Partisan Review 19 (1952): 310. 37 Rahv, ‘Our Country’ 307-8. 38 William Phillips, ‘The American Establishment’, Partisan Review 26 (1959): 113. 39 See for example Philip Rahv. ‘The Sense and Nonsense of Whittaker Chambers’, Partisan Review 19 (1952): 472-82. 40 See below, chapter 4. 41 The most obvious example of radical ineffectuality is Partisan Review. See below, chapters 1-4, especially chapter 4. 42 Thomas Crow, quoted in Casey Blake, rev. of How New York Stole the Idea of Modem Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War, by Serge Gilbaut, and The Romance of Commerce and Culture: Capitalism, Modernism and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform, by James Sloan Allen, Telos 62 (1984-5): 216. 43 Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists (London: Verso, 1989) 35. 44 Quoted in Blake, rev. 214. 45 Bruce Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (London: Verso, 1993) 65. 46 See below, chapter 7. 47 Robbins, Secular Vocations 9-10.

Part one The cultural avant-garde

C h ap ter 1

Partisan Review as avant-garde institution It has long been customary to accord Partisan Review a central place in the history of the New York Intellectuals. The majority of schol­ arly works on the Intellectual community include lengthy sections about the magazine’s career. One British observer has even defined the term ‘New York Intellectual’ itself to mean a person ‘who wrote for, edited, or read Partisan Review\1 True, in recent years some­ thing of a reaction has set in, w ith several commentators asking w hether the magazine’s reputation has not been inflated by its editors’ and associates’ flair for self-publicity, one even suggesting th a t many Intellectuals have since exaggerated the extent of their involvement with it in order to divert attention from other aspects of their (political) past which they now find em barrassing.2 Still, no-one has seriously disputed Partisan Review's cultural signifi­ cance; in this area of the New York Intellectuals’ experience the magazine is unanimously recognised as preeminent, peerless.3 The second part of this chapter gives a detailed account of the historical events whereby Partisan Review became a primarily cultural as opposed to political venture, and in the process provides an intro­ duction to most of the individuals who dominate the narrative in the rest of the book. In the third and final section, attention turns to the magazine’s early financial history, concentrating in particu­ lar on its editors’ relations w ith individual patrons. First though an attem pt is made to explain the role which Partisan Review performed for the New York Intellectuals. The key to understanding this role, it is argued, is to view the magazine as an avant-garde institution. I Partisan Review (or PR, as it was commonly referred to) was founded in 1934 by the John Reed Club of New York, a cultural extension


The cultural avant-garde

of the Communist Party. Over the course of the next two years, however, its two principal editors, William Phillips and Philip Rahv, grew increasingly disturbed by reports concerning the Sta­ linist government in the Soviet Union and frustrated w ith the Com­ m unist literary programme. By the end of 1936 they had decided to term inate their association w ith the Party and try to relaunch their magazine on an independent footing, w ith a dual commitment to anti-Stalinist Marxism and cultural Modernism. They envisioned a publication which would combine the functions of a Marxist theoretical journal w ith those of a little magazine.4 The 'new ' PR, which made its first appearance at the close of 1937, became a sort of rallying point for New York intellectuals in various stages of retreat from Stalinism. These included former associates of the Menorah Journal and members of the National Committee for the Defence of Political Prisoners, like the literary critic Lionel Trilling; former members of the American Workers Party like the philosophers Sidney Hook and James Burnham; Trotskyists and Trotskyist sympathisers like the critic Lionel Abel and the art historian Meyer Schapiro; distinguished literary-radical figures like James T. Farrell and Edmund Wilson; and a new literary 'discovery', in the person of the precociously talented poet Delmore Schwartz. Having severed their ties with the counter-institution of the Communist Party, these individuals found themselves in a state of m arginal isolation. Before long a distinct group of anti-Stalinist literary intellectuals had gathered around the relaunched PR. This group would later be identified as the founding generation of the New York Intellectual community. Not all of the New York Intellectuals lacked institutional affiliations. In fact most of them carried out at least some part-tim e work for an institutional employer during this period, and a few even held full-time perm anent academic posts.5Furtherm ore, many m aintained connections w ith radical, particularly Trotskyist, organisations. The point is th at the New York Intellectual commu­ nity necessarily existed independently of institutions or counter­ institutions; it constituted an interstitial space where even institutionally employed intellectuals could construct an inde­ pendent identity for themselves. PR’s role in this was crucial. When they broke w ith the Communist Party, the Intellectuals deprived themselves of the range of institutional services such an organis­ ation could provide. After 1937 PR ceased to function merely as

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


a publishing outlet, as it had when it was sponsored by the Communists, and began to acquire some of the characteristics of an institution. It fell to PR to perform a variety of vital institutional functions for the Intellectual community: [PR] registered [the community’s] concerns, spoke up for its accomplishments, regulated entry and standing w ithin its orbit, saw to the recruitm ent and training of its newest voices, provided its members w ith a passport to outside centers of power and creativity, and generally served as an emblem of their collective standing in the wider world.6 Each of these functions is now considered in greater detail. Registering the concerns of and speaking up for the Intellectual community was not merely a m atter of printing articles by Intel­ lectual contributors. It also involved defining and validating a distinctive communal identity and programme. Essays by the magazine’s editors celebrated the heroism of the independent liter­ ary intellectual. In the review section books which did not meet Intellectual aesthetic and political standards were either ignored or disparaged, while those which did were elevated to canonical status. PR’s contents constantly valorised the critical perspective of the New York Intellectual, both explicitly and implicitly.7 Not only that, the magazine’s editors also actively sought to shape communal discourse. They galvanised discussion of topical issues either by holding symposia or printing controversies between members of the Intellectual community. More generally, they served ’in the gatekeeping capacity of the salon hostess, deciding who [could] say w hat, at w hat length’.8 PR did not just record and broadcast Intellectual discourse; it also set the agenda for it. Second, PR functioned as a gateway to the Intellectual commu­ nity. For writers aspiring to community membership, recognition by the magazine was vital. ’Acceptance in PR was acclam ation’, remembers the poet Karl Shapiro. It ’conferred a special ideological status on the accepted’.9 Two groups of young intellectuals in particular appear to have desired such acceptance. A faction of anti-Stalinist socialist students at City College in New York was one. Daniel Bell, a CCNY graduate, recalls how: ‘In our younger years, Partisan Review was the place we wanted to publish. Appear­ ing in Partisan Review was a sign of acceptance.’10 The majority of second-generation New York Intellectuals, th at is members of


The cultural avant-garde

the Intellectual community who Joined it after 1940 but before 1950, were recruited from CCNY. A similar student group existed at the University of Chicago, and it too, despite its geographical location, provided the Intellectual community w ith several new members in the 1940s, including the novelist Saul Bellow.11 A classmate of Bellow’s, writing to PR’s editors in 1941, announced th at the magazine was ’a light and a joy in the whole esthetic field’, and pledged his loyalty to ’the esthetic leadership of men like Rahv’.12 Twenty years later another Chicagoan, Leslie Fiedler, recollected how he and his friends ’used to fight for and argue over [PR] in 1937 and ’38 and ’39’.13 By establishing contacts w ith other magazines, PR opened up channels of communication between the New York Intellectuals and literary communities elsewhere. For example, despite funda­ m ental intellectual differences, PR m aintained a cordial relation­ ship with the Kenyon and Sewanee Reviews. The three magazines shared a num ber of contributors; their editors collaborated pro­ fessionally (Philip Rahv taught at John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon School of Letters) and mixed socially (Rahv and Allen Tate were close friends). The same was true of European intellectuals. Although personal relations were sometimes strained,14 PR’s editors were nevertheless prepared to engage in collaborative ventures with their counterparts on French and British literary magazines. During the late 1940s, Jean-Paul Sartre contributed a num ber of essays to PR, and the magazine of which he was chief editor, Les Temps Modernes, assisted PR in compiling a special French issue.15 PR’s most im portant European ally, however, was the London-based monthly, Cyril Connolly’s Horizon. Both magazines printed work by the other’s editors, Stephen Spender becoming a regular contributor to PR. Horizon even briefly helped publish a British edition of the American magazine.16 In their memoirs, two of PR’s editors fondly refer to Horizon as PR’s ’English counterpart’.17 PR’s editors’ cultivation of relations w ith other literary maga­ zines both enhanced the reputation of the Intellectual community and, no less importantly, created new professional opportunities for its members. It also gave substance to their claim th at the magazine represented an international cultural tradition. PR was never supposed to function merely as the house organ of a particular intellectual group; its avowed purpose was to assimilate

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


the most significant currents of modem thought and art, regardless of their source. It is surprising how far this strenuously proclaimed cosmopolitanism was realised in practice. PR’s roster of regular contributors included several academics from elite American universities who otherwise had little or no direct personal involvement with the Intellectual community. Similarly, the editors often printed creative and critical work by American poets whose personal origins were far removed from the bohemian, radical milieu inhabited by the Intellectuals. (It is interesting to note th at Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell and, to a certain extent, Delmore Schwartz glided effortlessly between a variety of literary locales w ithout meeting any apparent resistance.) Finally, PR showed a keen interest in the careers of leading European writers who, like the New York Intellectuals, had undergone the shattering experience of deconversion from Communism, such as George Orwell, A rthur Koestler and Ignazio Silone. As well as publishing the work of these ’homeless radicals’ (Orwell and Koestler both contributed regular ’London Letters’), PR’s editors took personal charge of them whenever they visited the US. Rahv and Phillips constantly had one eye trained on Europe, w atching for literary produce they m ight import and package for American consumption. The ecumenicism of PR’s editorial policy did not signify a dere­ liction of the institutional functions the magazine performed for the New York Intellectuals. In fact the editors’ readiness to print the best of American writing, irrespective of its provenance, and their sensitivity to European literary developments positively bene­ fited the Intellectual community. For one thing, Intellectual contributors to PR were able to bask in the reflected glory of the nam es of illustrious European writers. For another, the editors’ skill in coralling such writers provided Intellectual literary critics w ith an opportunity to set the terms for their critical reception in America. Thanks to PR, the Intellectual community could claim w hat am ounted to property rights to certain genres of modem literature. Naturally this gave it a sense of importance and an esprit de corps it would otherwise have lacked. Like the little magazines of the 1920s on which it was partly modelled, PR was m eant to concern itself only w ith the community of writers whose work it published, and rigorously exclude considerations of readership. Nevertheless, the magazine could not


The cultural avant-garde

have survived as it did w ithout some revenue from sales. Moreover, its institutional role involved an obligation to publicise the Intel­ lectuals’ work as widely as possible. The editors’ solution to this contradiction, which they worked out over the course of several years, was mainly rhetorical. PR was edited as if it was intended to be consumed only by those who had produced it: contributors were encouraged ‘to talk to their own kind and never mind being unintelligible to the uninitiated’.18 Hence readers of the magazine were tacitly invited to assume the identity of New York Intellect­ uals. This rhetorical strategy extended the boundaries of the Intel­ lectual community to include an outer whorl composed of PR’s readership. According to its editors, the magazine performed an institutional role not only for its contributors but for its audience as well. William Phillips believed that: For many of its readers who are scattered all over the country it has served as a focal point in their attem pt to orient them­ selves in the world of modem art and politics. Thus the magazine has come to possess the significance and authority of a stable cultural institution.19 The editors’ solution of the problem of readership also involved calculations of readers’ influence. ‘In terms of audience, of course, Philip [Rahv] never believed in size, but rather in influence; it was not how many you were reaching, but who.’20 PR’s promotional campaigns targeted strategically located individuals who could disseminate the work of the Intellectual community to a wider audience, say by teaching or writing. Who did in fact read PR? Judged by commercial standards, PR’s audience was minuscule. Compared w ith other little magazines, however, it was uncommonly large. Until 1945, circulation was less than 5,000; by the early 1950s it had risen to well over 10,000; afterwards it began to drop again (these figures only represent sales - most copies of the magazine were probably read by more than one person).21 The geographical distribution and social composition of PR’s readership were unusual as well. A survey conducted by the editors in 1941 revealed a high concen­ tration of readers in New York City, 35% to be precise; 56% were spread out along the eastern seaboard states, while Chicago ac­ counted for 9%. The single most common occupation was teaching (19%). Students constituted 12% of readers, 10% ‘w riters’ and the

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


rem ainder worked in a variety of jobs, mostly professional - only 4% were ‘workingclass’ [sic]. Added to this, PR’s audience was remarkably young: just over 50% was aged 20 to 30, and almost 30% 30 to 40. The general impression created by these findings is of an extraordinarily compact and homogenous readership. (The discovery th at 30% of readers first learned of PR’s existence by word of m outh would seem to confirm this.)22 The editors probably interpreted the results of their survey as evidence th at the New York Intellectual community was surrounded by a penum bra of attentive and like-minded 'secondary' intellectuals. They m ust also have been gratified to learn th at so many of their readers occupied positions of actual or potential intellectual influ­ ence. These included writers, teachers and those students who would go on to write or teach. Taking into account the easy avail­ ability of copies in university libraries, PR’s academic audience was probably even larger than th at recorded by the survey. In view of the decidedly anti-academic tone of much of the magazine’s con­ tents, this is somewhat puzzling. An explanation perhaps lies in the readership's age profile. PR offered graduate students and junior professors the opportunity to participate, albeit vicariously, in an independent intellectual community, and provided them w ith a novel perspective from which to reevaluate and reformulate acad­ emic values and concerns.23 In addition to its symbolic uses, PR was a rich source of information about new literary developments and critical innovations, which m ight be utilised for research or teaching purposes. It is not to be wondered, therefore, th at Lionel Trilling's seniors at Columbia *squeal[ed] w ith delight over it’. As Trilling explained to one of the magazine’s editors: They say it means a great deal to them - as of course it does to me - th at something is being w ritten th at they can read; the things th at helped you and me at school are, of course, dead and stinking to them .24 It should be mentioned at this point th a t PR’s studiedly elitist and exclusive idiom was not to the liking of all of its readers. Several of the respondents to the 1941 survey complained th at the maga­ zine was ‘snobbish’ and ‘esoteric’. Although the editors did not attem pt to correlate these views with such factors as occupation and age, it seems reasonable to assume th at older, more ‘estab­ lished’ readers would be the most likely to object to the magazine’s


The cultural avant-garde

practice of constructing its audience as an extension of the New York Intellectual community. The majority of PR’s audience, how­ ever, appeared flattered by its Refusal to talk down to its readers’.25 By the second half of the 1940s, PR was universally recognised as a symbol of artistic excellence and uncompromising intellectual integrity. Famous American and European writers acknowledged its accomplishments and influence. Mass circulation magazines invoked its nam e ’w ith perfect confidence th at it w[ould] stir the proper responses in their vast audiences’.26 Even th at monument of middlebrow culture The Saturday Review of Literature described it as ’the most stim ulating and satisfying magazine of ideas and literary expression now being published in the United States’.27 PR’s reputation for cultural importance and centrality was already largely established. II PR performed a range of institutional functions for the New York Intellectuals w ith a considerable degree of success. Still, the role of Intellectual institution was, in several respects, deeply problem­ atic. Despite an outw ard appearance of unity and unanim ity, the Intellectual community was in fact prone to bitter internal conflict. Even PR’s editorial board, which outsiders tended to regard as a monolithic entity, was susceptible to tension and division. Indeed, at one point, in the early 1940s, disagreement between the editors about the proper nature of the magazine became so serious as to threaten its very survival. It was as a result of this dispute th at PR adopted a principally cultural rather than political programme for the rem ainder of its existence, and exchanged the M arxist-Leninist vanguard for the Modernist avant-garde as its preferred model of intellectual community. To understand the causes of these problems, it is necessary to recall the circumstances of the Intellectual community’s formation. The m ajority of the Intellectuals did not choose to lead a communal existence; rather they were forced into it, ’stuck w ith one another like a family’.28 Despite sharing many of the same traits and beliefs, and a vague sense of common destiny, each continued to nurse purely personal ambitions. In these circumstances it was inevitable th at disputes would arise. Conflict between Intellectuals usually combined lofty theoretical disputation w ith crude ad hominem

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


invective. This conflation of the personal w ith the theoretical was a typical feature of Intellectual discourse. W hen Intellectuals turned their hand to writing fiction, as several did, they usually favoured a novelistic form which combined elements of the roman à clef and the conte philosophique, 'malicious gossip and disinterested argum ent about ideas'.29 It was an incestuous, neurotic environ­ ment, more like the 'jungle of Hobbes than a commune of Kropot­ kin’; the Intellectuals 'gnawed on each other, lived on each other’.30 This is not to say th at intram ural controversies were always harm ­ ful to the interests of the community. In fact the Intellectuals’ readiness to contradict one another m eant th at they could ignore or dismiss similar objections developed outside the confines of their community. Moreover, their polemical style did have an an element of affectation about it, a deliberate flaunting of plebeian bad m an­ ners in the face of more decorous literary rivals. Nevertheless, there was always a danger in such a contentious, hermetic atmosphere th a t personal relations might break down altogether. In 1949, for example, Irving Howe observed th at the tone of Intellectual controversies had recently become ‘dreadfully unm odulated and paranoic [sic]’, while Dwight Macdonald reckoned th at there had been more 'rows, clashes, feuds, and factional conflicts in the NYC [sic] literary world this w inter than at any time in the past’.31 Conflict w ithin the Intellectual community necessarily con­ cerned PR. While its editors tried to combat the disintegrative forces at work on the Intellectuals, they were also in the business of ostracising individuals who showed an excessive inclination to pur­ sue personal interests. Maverick Intellectuals tended anyway to reject PR’s institutional authority, and search for other publishing outlets. This did not, however, prevent them from occasionally trying to gain influence on the magazine’s editorial board. Not surprisingly, relations between such Intellectuals and PR’s editors were extremely tense, and combined personal and intellectual con­ flict in typical fashion. Never one to run w ith the pack, Harold Rosenberg seldom con­ tributed to PR and shunned personal contact w ith its editors. W ithin only a year of the magazine’s relaunch the latter were expressing the wish th at Rosenberg had ‘been worldng for PR in­ stead of against it’, and alluding darkly to 'personal animosi­ ties’.32 Relations eventually reached breaking point when he upset Philip Rahv by referring to his Dial Press edition of Henry James’


The cultural avant-garde

short novels as ’the Henry James delicatessen’.33 Paul Goodman serves as another example of a prom inent Intellectual whose work rarely appeared in PR, athough in his case this was not for w ant of trying. During the early 1940s Goodman repeatedly submitted short stories to the magazine, only to have them returned to him with a rejection slip.34 This systematic neglect m ight partly be ex­ plained by his failure to abide by communal conventions governing style and subject m atter. It is also likely th at his unorthodox life­ style, in particular his bisexuality, gave rise to personal friction w ith some of PR’s editors.35 None of this though deterred him from trying to join the magazine’s editorial board in 1943.36 Philip Rahv contemptuously referred to Intellectuals who fought shy of affiliation w ith PR (or who had done something to offend him, which in his view am ounted to the same thing) as Luftmen­ schen, literally ’men of the air’, meaning th at they lacked an insti­ tutional base of the sort he possessed in the shape of his magazine editorship.37 In 1942 Alfred Kazin was appointed book editor of the liberal weekly New Republic, and thereby acquired an institu­ tional base of his own. Consequently he could afford to incur Rahv’s displeasure and defy Intellectual convention. This he did in a num ­ ber of ways. While most New York-born Jewish writers of his gen­ eration were busy preparing critical essays about European Modernism for submission to PR, he undertook research for a booklength history of American literature addressed to a public audi­ ence. The publication in 1942 of On Native Grounds coincided with the emergence in some literary circles of a W ar-induced mood of cultural nationalism , a development which the New York Intel­ lectuals viewed w ith alarm and abhorrence. A close associate of PR accused Kazin of hanging ’on the handrail of the bandwagon’, and the magazine’s editors joined in mocking his ambitiousness and ridiculing his fulsome prose style.38 As Kazin remarked to a friend: I have no love for the magazine, and the editors certainly have none for me. Someone who worked in their office once told me, w ith genuine consternation, th at they talked about me as if I were Hitler. I can well believe it; they talk th at way about almost everyone.39 In spite of this m utual hostility, PR published Kazin on a virtually regular basis. The magazine’s editors were simply unable to ignore

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


a figure of such literary distinction, while he for his part was loath to sever his ties w ith the Intellectual community. A similar sort of ambivalence marked relations between PR and Lionel Trilling. Although in many respects Trilling was a typical member of the magazine’s circle - Jewish, New York-raised, liter­ ary, decisively influenced by Marxism and Modernism - in several he was quite atypical. For example, unlike most New York Intel­ lectuals he had held a full-time job, a professorship at Columbia University, since the 1930s, and enjoyed a distinguished reputation as a literary scholar. In addition to his academic success, and not unrelated to it, he was far more assimilated to the dom inant ethnic culture than were other Intellectuals. Both these factors were evid­ enced in his unusual literary tastes, personal style and politics. W hereas the editors of PR ’had been preoccupied w ith figures like Joyce or Proust, or Dostoevsky and Kafka, Trilling urged the case of more conventional novelists like E. M. Forster and Jane Austen’.40 If they were raucous and uncouth, most at home in the cluttered editorial office or the noisy Lower East Side deli, he was ironic and polite, in his element in the Senior Common Room and the Momingside Heights faculty drinks party. And where they called themselves radicals, ‘the cast of his mind was the rational, secular, and non-religious one of classical liberalism’.41 Given these differ­ ences, some tension was only to be expected. Securely grounded in Columbia, Trilling had no need as such for unconventional pub­ lishing outlets or, for th at m atter, membership in an independent intellectual community. In fact he deliberately avoided group affili­ ations, telling a correspondent ‘whenever I think of groups I get queasy’.42 For their part the editors were bound to regard him with some reserve. That said, they did genuinely admire his critical reputation, while also no doubt appreciating his strategic import­ ance as a link figure w ith the singularly productive and innovative Columbia hum anities faculty. Similarly on his side Trilling appears to have felt a keen desire to m aintain contact w ith independent Jewish intellectuals. This is why, presumably, he made reasonably frequent contributions to PR, and in 1947 agreed to sit on its Advisory Board.43 If not warm, relations between the editors and Trilling were at least cordial.44 Institutionally affiliated and maverick New York Intellectuals were more of an irritation than a threat to PR. It was internal conflict, disputes between editors, which really spelt danger for the


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magazine. Yet nowhere in the Intellectual conum nunity was the atmosphere more factious than around PR’s editorial board. On one occasion Delmore Schwartz told a correspondent th at he often felt ‘like calling P.R. a snake-pit', but hesitated 'only because to do so would be to insult snakes’; not only had Alfred Kazin heard himself and other 'people denounced in the cruelest way’ by the editors; he had also ‘heard them denounce each other in the same way’; and so on.4S Considering th at PR’s editors were among the most personally ambitious members of the Intellectual community, it is hardly surprising th at relations between them were strained. However, personal conflict does not by itself explain a particu­ larly serious division w ithin PR’s editorial board which developed gradually after 1938 and culminated in 1943 with the resignation of one of the chief editors. This lengthy and disastrous dispute arose from a fundamental disagreement about PR’s role and, by implic­ ation, about the identity of the New York Intellectual community. W hereas one editorial faction believed th at PR’s primary purpose was to perform the functions of a little magazine and print mainly literary m aterial, another considered its proper character to be that of a radical bulletin, publishing political theory and commentary. The first of these views implicitly defined the Intellectuals as a cultural avant-garde, the second as a vanguard of political revol­ ution. In 1937 the editors had hoped th at PR would enshrine both these paradigms, yet by 1943 this no longer seemed possible. Obviously, such an elementary programmatic disagreement cannot be explained away solely in terms of personality clashes. But neither is it enough simply to attribute it to 'intellectual differences’. An explanation of editorial conflict m ust be sought w hich takes account both of its personal and its intellectual dimensions. Before examining the disputes which troubled PR after 1938, it might prove helpful to consider the causes of an incident of editorial conflict which occurred during the magazine’s first incarnation as a publication of the Communist Party. Early in 1936, following the Party’s adoption of a Popular Front policy, and the creation of the Leagues of American W riters to replace the John Reed Clubs, PR was merged w ith the Anvil, a Communist literary magazine edited out of Missouri by Jack Conroy. In spite of the official bless­ ings of Mike Gold, who hailed the wedding of 'th a t spunky pioneer of mid-west proletarian literature, Jack Conroy’s Anvil, and Partisan Review, organ of the New York left-wing intellectuals’,46 the

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


m arriage between the two magazines proved unhappy and short­ lived. Conroy already suspected Rahv of having played a part in the demise of another magazine he had edited, The Rebel Poet, and was still sm arting from a patronising review of Anvil which had appeared in PR. Moreover, he and his new colleagues had very different and, as it turned out, incompatible ideas about proletarian literature. W hereas they envisaged a synthesis of radical social concerns and Modernist formal devices, he understood the term literally to mean w riting by industrial and agricultural workers. This disagreement reflected an even more fundam ental conflict of radical styles. Conroy regarded Rahv and Phillips as bureaucrats and ideologues who lacked the stom ach for authentic working class struggle - as in his own phrase ‘coffee-shop revolutionaries’.47 PR’s editors, meanwhile, found Conroy ‘too populist and antiintellectual’.48 Clearly the merger of the two magazines was doomed to failure. Although the editors ostensibly shared the same political beliefs and aims, they were so ill-matched temperamentally metropolitan, immigrant, theoretical on the one hand, regional, native-stock, practical on the other - th at collaboration between them was impossible. Underlying this incident of editorial conflict were the factors of geography, class and ethnicity. Phillips and Rahv were not the only members of the editorial board which refounded PR in 1937. Alongside them were several other recent converts to anti-Stalinism: F. W. Dupee, previously literary editor of the New Masses, Dwight Macdonald, a former columnist on the Luce magazine Fortune, Mary McCarthy, a reviewer for the Nation and New Republic; and George L. K. Morris, an abstract painter. Of these new recruits, only Dupee had been involved in the Communist movement to anything like the same extent as Phillips and Rahv. Macdonald did not became a radical until 1936; before then he had been a ‘mild fellow traveller’.49 McCarthy, likewise, had toyed w ith Communism, but ultim ately was repelled by Party members’ dogmatism and humourless­ ness.50 In both cases it was moral outrage at the Moscow Show Trials th at prompted a serious interest in Marxist theory and Soviet history.51 Morris, finally, had no experience of involvement in radi­ cal politics whatsoever. Nor did the difference between the old and new editors end there. Phillips had been reared in the Jewish im m igrant ghettos of the Bronx, and educated at M anhattan’s ‘com muter college’, CCNY. Rahv, also a Jew, was bom in Soviet


The cultural avant-garde

Ukraine, and did not settle perm anently in America until he was fourteen years old; he did not attend university at all. Both were brought up in dismal poverty.52 In contrast, all of the newcomers were gentiles from quite prosperous backgrounds. Macdonald, Morris and Dupee had known each other at Yale; McCarthy was a graduate of Vassar. It is possible, then, to view the new PR’s editorial board as an alliance of two different types of American radical. Phillips and Rahv were raised in an immigrant, proletarian environment; their radicalism was an expression of personal and collective grievance, springing from and sanctioned by a tradition of organised im m igrant labour activism. It is rather harder to explain why the gentile editors became radicals. Phillips and Rahv m ust surely have wondered at the presence in their obscure, disreputable intellectual circle of these privileged goyim. They had a theory about Mary McCarthy; ‘You're really a throwback,’ they told her. ‘You’re really a twenties figure.’S3 Delmore Schwartz, PR’s unofficial poetry editor, invented a similar explanation of Macdonald’s radicalism: Macdonald ‘was not a member of the advance guard, but rather an archaism, bom too late: a great muck-raker, a greater [Lincoln] Steffens?’ Subsequently, however, Schwartz decided th at Macdonald belonged to the broader tradition ‘of th at great non-conformism which began when Roger Williams moved to Rhode Island’.54 Certainly incidents in the gentile editors’ pasts suggest th at they were predisposed to rom antic personal rebellion: at Vassar, McCarthy caused a scandal by producing a ‘rebel literary magazine’; as a schoolboy, Macdonald formed a club called the Hedonists, whose uniform included batik neckties and walking sticks; and Dupee used to boast to classmates of his Huguenot descent.55 Each of these episodes are suggestive of an aristocratic disdain for bourgeois mores, an urge to épater les bourgeois. Macdonald’s ‘prem ature’ conversion to anti-Stalinism, and later obdurate adherence to pacifism (McCarthy was a pacifist as well), might best be understood in terms of a deep-seated personal compulsion to champion unpopular causes. Although all the editors were no doubt stimulated by encounters with intellectuals from backgrounds so different from their own, the social and ethnic heterogeneity of the new board was also a potential source of tension and division. At first it was the political inexperience of the gentile editors th at caused problems. McCarthy

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


lived in a state of trepidation th at she m ight provide am m unition to PR’s Stalinist enemies by w riting something bourgeois and frivo­ lous.56 In contrast Macdonald expressed himself unembarrassedly in a way which perplexed and irritated Rahv, ‘who always played his cards close to his chest*.57 Morris was less prudent still. On one occasion he visited the Stalinists’ W orkers’ Bookshop, wearing spats and carrying a cane, and tried to buy a copy of Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed. ‘The boys’ (as Phillips and Rahv were known by their colleagues) were dismayed. ‘Did anyone recognise you?’ they demanded to know. ‘Do you think they knew who you were?’58 Sometimes the Jewish editors’ exasperation w ith their gentile colleagues was reciprocated. For all their earnestness and sophisti­ cation, Phillips and Rahv often seemed to lack other equally valuable qualities, such as daring and spontaneity. Phillips himself, recalling Macdonald’s and McCarthy’s defiance of the Stalinists at the Second American W riters’ Congress, later admitted th at he and Rahv had ‘tended too much to sobriety’.59 It did not take long for disagreements about editorial policy to surface. Even before the appearance of the first issue of the new PR, the editors argued over the question of w hether or not they should print some overtly anti-Stalinist m aterial, w ith the gentiles in favour and the Jews against.60 W ithin a few years, the editorial board had split into two factions, which Macdonald later defined thus: ‘Rahv and Phillips on the one hand, and myself on the other hand, w ith Morris as a kind of sleeping partner. And Dupee held the middle, swing vote.’61 (McCarthy is not mentioned because she quit PR in 1938.) By this stage disputes between the editors had ceased to be merely tactical. While Phillips and Rahv, under the influence of Sidney Hook,62 despaired of the prospects of a prole­ tarian revolution, and gradually severed their radical ties, Mac­ donald continued to educate himself in Marxist theory, and in 1939 joined the Socialist Workers Party.63 As their political pos­ itions diverged, so the editors began to disagree about PR’s purpose and function, Macdonald taking the view th at it should devote more coverage to political m atters, Phillips and Rahv th at it should concentrate on the arts, especially literature. The scope for editorial conflict widened suddenly when w ar broke out in Europe. At first the editors agreed th at PR should adopt the Trotskyist position of ‘revolutionary defeatism’, in the belief that American entry into the W ar would lead to a state of domestic


The cultural avant-garde

tyranny and the suppression of the workers’ revolution.64 However, as Phillips’ and Rahv’s radicalism waned, so the theo­ retical grounds for their pacifism diminished, and they gradually began to express a guarded support for the Allied democracies. In contrast Macdonald’s views on the W ar did not change at all, even after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and he obstinately refused to lend his support to any belligerent action by the Ameri­ can governm ent.65 Meanwhile argum ents about the ratio of political to cultural contents intensified. These argum ents were waged against a background of m ounting personal recrim ination. While Macdonald’s behaviour struck Phillips and Rahv as reckless and irresponsible, Macdonald com­ plained repeatedly of his colleagues’ ’tem peram ental lim itations’, which he listed as ’timidity, exaggerated respect for established reputations [and] fear of being “laughed a t“’.66 These ’neurotic fears’ had, he claimed, caused the editorial board to adopt ’over­ cautious negativistic policies’, which were in danger of stifling the magazine.67 As factional conflict escalated in 1942 and 1943, Macdonald levelled a new charge at Rahv and Phillips, namely th at they wanted ’to build a career on PR. And hence w ant to keep it respectable’.68 The Jewish editors responded w ith an equally sting­ ing counter-allegation. Macdonald’s attacks on them were, they suggested, motivated by anti-Semitism.69 Leaving to one side the question of w hether or not Macdonald was anti-Semitic, it is clear th at there were social and ethnic factors at play in his confrontations w ith Phillips and Rahv. Por example, his persistent public opposition to the W ar, which they viewed as rash and impetuous, indicates an easy sense of rootedness, even patrician self-assurance, on his part - the legacy presumably of his privileged, native-stock upbringing. Similarly, their habitual caution was understandable given their upbringing in an environm ent con­ ditioned by fear of political persecution (according to Phillips, Rahv would literally tremble at the thought of the police arresting him), as indeed were the career ambitions imputed to them by Macdonald, considering the complete lack of conventional jobs available to them .70Also, of course, the W ar itself accentuated ethnic differences between the editors, by unleashing long pent up assimilationist pressures to which the imm igrants Phillips and Rahv were suscep­ tible but the native-born Macdonald was not. Macdonald’s accu­ sations of timidity and careerism then did have some foundation

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


in truth; similarly, Phillips and Rahv were in a sense right to detect in these charges an oblique reference to their ethnic identity. In any event by 1943 things had grown so bad th at the editors could no longer reconcile their political differences and, after a brief struggle for control of PR, Macdonald resigned from the board. An exchange of letters between the editors printed in PR revealed the seriousness of their disagreement about the magazine’s function. Macdonald had hoped th at it would ‘serve as a forum and a rallying-point for such intellectuals as are still concerned w ith social and political issues’, as, in other words, a vehicle for the radical vanguard. Phillips and Rahv found such a view constricting and regressive. 'The tru th is th at Macdonald tended more and more to think of the magazine as an organ of political propaganda.’ The conception of PR’s function which they advanced was based instead on the role which the little magazine had historically performed for the cultural avant-garde.71 After 1943 not a single gentile remained on PR. Although Phillips and Rahv feared th at the magazine’s cosmopolitan image m ight suffer as a result of the now monolithic ethnic composition of its editorial board,72 they were not willing to risk a repetition of the sort of dispute they had had w ith Macdonald, and set about recruiting new editors who roughly shared their conception of PR’s function as well as their social and ethnic background. Immediately after Macdonald’s departure, Delmore Schwartz was officially appointed associate editor. Two years later, a friend of his, the academic philosopher William Barrett, was taken on in the role of junior editor.73 Barrett was an Irish Catholic by birth, but his up­ bringing (in Queens) and education (at CCNY) were like those of his Jewish colleagues.74The relative social and ethnic homogeneity of PR’s editorial board after 1943 resulted in a far greater degree of intellectual unanim ity in and around the magazine. This is not to say th at personal tensions disappeared altogether. Rahv’s am­ bitiousness and unscrupulousness had by now thoroughly antag­ onised Phillips, and, despite an attem pt in 1946 by the latter to bring his partner to account, the relationship between the two senior editors gradually deteriorated until, by the latter half of the 1950s, they were hardly on speaking term s.75 These personality wrangles notw ithstanding, the board was far more united on issues of ideology and programme than it had ever been previously, so th a t PR’s future as a primarily cultural institution was assured.


The cultural avant-garde

III ‘Somehow in the loose-jointed society of America during the Great Depression/ wrote William Barrett in his memoirs, ‘there was enough space so th at a little magazine could be launched, w ithout institutional ties or backing, and m anage somehow to stumble along financially on a shoestring from issue to issu e/76 The reason th at PR was able to perform the role of an avant-garde institution - and thereby provide the autonom ous space necessary for the existence of the New York Intellectual community - was th at it was free from institutional control; the reason th at it was free from institutional control was th at it was financially independent; and the reason th at it was financially independent was th at it was subsidised by individual patrons, or ‘angels*. Individual patronage, then, had the great advantage of securing PR independence of institutions. However, it also had many disadvantages, the main one being th at it was scarce, and growing scarcer. During the early part of its existence the new PR was in the more or less ideal position of being supported by one of its editors. In 193 7 George L. K. Morris promised to subsidise the costs of the magazine to the tune of up to $3,000 per annum .77 The years th at followed neatly illustrated the benefits and disadvantages of individual patron­ age. On the one hand, PR was never more energetic and productive than during the period of Morris* patronage. On the other, it was never economically less secure. All the $3,000 subsidy covered was printers’ bills and the rent on a tiny office. The editors could not afford to hire secretarial staff or even, at this stage, pay contributors. More­ over, except for one negligible editorial salary, their own work on the magazine was completely unrem unerated. They subsisted oh hack-work, occasional consultancy duties for the publishing houses, part-tim e teaching, and perhaps most importantly the savings or earnings of their wives. William Phillips remembers living ‘on nothing; we scrounged. Lunch could be a bag of peanuts.*78 Despite these economies, Morris’ budget proved unequal to the costs of monthly publication, and in 1938 the magazine began to appear on a quarterly basis. Throughout this period PR was constantly men­ aced by the threat of financial extinction. In 1942 Philip Rahv in­ formed Robert Penn W arren, editor of the recently defunct Southern Review, that PR ‘was also on the skids until the readers came to its rescue with substantial contributions’.79 In 1943 he told another

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


correspondent of his plans to avert ‘the annual financial crisis’.80 Simply in order to keep PR afloat, the editors had to supplement Morris’ subsidy from a variety of extraordinary sources, such as mailing campaigns, an annual party and begging from acquain­ tances (Delmore Schwartz, who taught at Harvard, used to pass a cap among Boston academics).81 In 1943 Morris informed the other editors th at he could no longer afford to support PR. It was this announcem ent which pre­ cipitated the editorial split th at had been looming since 1938. Dwight Macdonald and ‘the boys’, Phillips and Rahv, agreed th at the time had arrived for a parting of ways. If, it was decided, the latter could find some new source of funding, they would assume exclusive control of PR. If they could not, then Macdonald, who had savings from his term on Fortune, and whose wife had just inherited a large sum of money, would take over instead. As events turned out, Phillips and Rahv surprised everyone, including themselves, by raising the necessary funds. Joan Simon, an assis­ tan t on the magazine, volunteered $500 to cover the costs of one issue.82 Meanwhile Rahv secured a pledge of $2,500 a year from the wife of a high-ranking army officer, Mrs Mary Herder Norton of W ashington DC.83 Macdonald’s departure was not yet guaran­ teed however. Following an exchange of acrimonious letters with Phillips and Rahv, he and his wife Nancy, who had managed PR’s business arrangem ents, delayed surrendering the magazine’s accounts.84 ‘The boys’ retaliated by refusing to allow them to use PR’s subscription lists to circularise for a new magazine they were planning to launch the following w inter.85 M utual resentm ent came to a head at an editorial meeting in the late summer of 1943, when Rahv threatened to have Macdonald arrested.86The accounts and lists were eventually exchanged, and Macdonald was free at last to edit a magazine according to his own lights.87 In a letter to Macdonald, Rahv described PR’s new patron, Mary Norton, as: a woman of the finest sensibility, but politically she is an indifferentist, more or less. W hat she liked particularly about the magazine is its sustained contact w ith European literary and artistic ideas.88 In other words, Norton was attracted to PR for roughly the same reasons as George L. K. Morris. He too was a political ‘indifferentist’.


The cultural avant-garde

interested mainly in the magazine's cultural coverage. There was, however, one im portant difference between the two angels. W hereas Morris had given his fellow editors a free rein to express their radical opinions, Norton requested th at wherever possible they refrain from political comment, particularly concerning the War, so as to avoid em barrassing her husband.*9 Henceforth, PR’s editorial policy would have to abide by certain political restrictions. In the process of acquiring a new angel, the magazine had con­ tracted an obligation, albeit a tenuous one, to a national institution - the army. Philip Rahv was quick to defend himself against charges th at he had allowed PR to be politically muzzled. 'There are a thousand and one ways of slipping political discussions into the magazine reviews, ripostes, etc. - despite our agreement w ith Mrs N orton,' he told Macdonald. ‘Let’s not be too literal-minded about it.’90 George L. K. Morris shared Rahv’s view of the new patronage ar­ rangem ent: ‘I didn’t realise th at the money was being given with the idea th at politics was prohibited. I thought th at it was just to be w ithout political accent - about the way it is now.’91 In fact, PR’s editors continued, as they had always done, to print articles and reviews w hich conflated cultural and political commentary. Politics did not simply disappear from PR’s pages w ith the departure of Macdonald and the arrival of Norton. Nevertheless, it would be true to say th at the magazine did desist from the articulation of positive radical views. Instead it tended increasingly to give expres­ sion to the political pessimism which, during the 1940s, pervaded the discourse of ex-Communist intellectuals everywhere, or else rehearsed ritualistic denunciations of the New York Intellectuals’ old enemies, the Stalinists and ‘Stalinoid’ liberals. Evidently, Norton cannot be held responsible for Phillips’ and Rahv’s deradicalisation. Moreover, even Macdonald recognised the need for editorial selfrestraint lest the government crack down on PR as an anti-W ar publication.92 W hen all this is considered, Norton’s vague injuction on controversial comment about the W ar comes to seem super­ rogatory. The period of Norton’s patronage followed a pattern similar to Morris’. In some respects PR performed extremely well. One year into his association w ith Norton, Rahv recorded his belief that: The magazine has never had better prospects than it has at present. For w ithout any kind of business organisation, we

Partisan Review as avant-garde in stitu tio n


are beginning to get paid advertisements and quite a few new subs. And more im portantly still, some new writers seem to be emerging from the wartime slump th at has now lasted for some years.93 Rahv’s predictions were correct. Between 1944 and the summer of 1946, the magazine’s circulation doubled to a figure of around 6,500, bringing in sufficient sales revenue to permit bi-monthly publication.94 And in 1946 PR became only the second American magazine, after Reader’s Digest, to be published in London since the end of the War. In March of th at year, Cyril Connolly’s Horizon arranged the printing and distribution of 1,000 copies of a British edition of PR, retailing at 3s. 6d. According to one Bloomsbury bookseller, his customers’ eyes ’lit up w ith pleasure’ when they discovered copies on his shelves.95 Yet despite all these signs of gathering popularity and prestige, PR’s editors could still ’only do a modicum of w hat [they] wanted to do’, because of lack of funds.96 Even in this period of expansion, receipts from advertising, nor­ mally a major source of magazine revenue, only covered a tiny fraction of PR’s costs. An estimate of expenses for one year (1945) calculated total expenditure at $19,100, and income from adver­ tising at a mere $1,500.97 In 1945 Schwartz intim ated to a friend th at another crisis was impending.98 W hatever else Norton might have achieved for PR, she had not brought it financial security. In September 1947 Allan D. Dowling, a New York real estate speculator, offered PR sufficient funds to enable it to extend the range of its coverage of the arts and appear on a regular m onthly basis.99 The generosity of this offer both delighted and unnerved the editors, and there was some speculation about Dowling’s motives. Rahv, for example, suspected th at he hoped to meet bohemian women through the magazine. Soon, however, it became apparent th at Dowling’s intentions towards PR were quite honour­ able, no different, in fact, from those of previous angels. He ’wanted simply the gratification of sharing in an intellectual enter­ prise’.100 Realisation th at Dowling’s interest in the magazine was sincere gave rise to fears th at he might try to influence editorial policy, fears which seemed to be confirmed when he announced his intention of forming a board of advisory editors, to include himself and his friend, the art critic James Johnson Sweeney. This last appointm ent caused particular concern. Phillips was a close personal friend of Clement Greenberg, who was to all intents and


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purposes PR’s unofficial art critic. It was well known th at Sweeney and Greenberg held contradictory opinions about abstract paint­ ing, and Phillips wondered w hether Sweeney's presence on the advisory board did not pose a threat to his friend’s position on the magazine.101 In the event Phillips’ worries proved unfounded, for Greenberg continued to contribute regularly to PR. It rapidly became obvious th at Dowling’s advisory board would have little or no power over the day-to-day running of the magazine. If anything, the new pa­ tron’s attitude was more laissez-faire than th at of his predecessors. If there was any conservatlsing influence at work on PR after 1947, it originated w ithin and not outside the magazine. Dowling had allowed Phillips and Rahv to pack the advisory board w ith their own appointees. Significantly, their choice had alighted upon three New York Intellectuals w ith reputations as moulders of anti-radical thought: James Burnham, author of the immensely influential and profoundly pessimistic The Managerial Revolution; Lionel Trilling, fictionalist of deradicalisation and advocate of toughened liberal­ ism; and Sidney Hook, anti-Communist theoretician and cultural Cold W arrior. Like previous individual patrons, Dowling’s influence over editorial policy was minimal. Although Dowling personally appeared to present no threat to PR’s editorial independence, there were some misgivings about the lavishness of his patronage. His subsidies of $40,000 a year allowed the magazine to adopt such commercial practices as hiring secre­ tarial and business stafT, paying its contributors at competitive rates, conducting promotion campaigns and awarding literary prizes. Even the associate editors now drew small salaries. Under the new dispensation, PR’s circulation rose to about 13,000 or 14,000.102 Plans were mooted for launching a French edition, with offices in Paris, under the direction of Clement Greenberg.103 PR’s New York office was moved from its site on the edge of Greenwich Village into a building owned by Dowling w ith the midtown address of 45th and Broadway.104 Quite literally, PR had quit the territory of the avant-garde and settled in th at of commercial publishing. Its new location and scale of operation gave rise to concern th at the magazine might neglect its original purpose, which was to represent ’a community outside the cultural marketplace’.105 The editor of another New York little magazine was advised by a contributor:

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You’d better be careful not to print anything th at m ight have too much appeal - or we will all end up w ith a big spread in Life magazine like poor Sartre. It m ust be difficult to edit a magazine and yet be neither too obscure nor too w ell-know n!. . . All this doesn’t seem to worry PR though.106 Catherine Carver, who had helped m anage the magazine since 1937, decided to leave Phillips and Rahv ’before success o’er takes them ’. She could not imagine them outside of the Village: ‘I can never move uptown w ith them, or anyway away from here.’107 Visitors to PR’s new office were particularly struck by the in­ congruity of the dishevelled, shambling figure of Delmore Schwartz in such plush surroundings. In 1951 Dowling went through an expensive divorce and cut down his annual subsidy to $12,000. Shortly afterwards, PR reverted to quarterly publication and rented a small office on West 12th Street, where it resumed ’its old pure and m arginal exist­ ence’.108 PR’s geographic shifts were paradigm atic of its contra­ dictory desire for economic stability on the one hand, and its determ ination to retain its power as avant-garde institution on the other.

Notes 1 Norman Birnbaum, quoted in Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 9. 2 For example, in a 1987 letter to the New York Times Book Review, Daniel Bell suggested that ‘there has been some mythmaking about the central role of Partisan Review, in part . . . because of the memoirs of Partisan Review editors and writers’, a view echoed in a slightly earlier article by Sidney Hook: ‘The legend that has grown up about the political influence of Partisan Review has to some extent been fostered by its editor and some early contributors who probably have themselves been surprised at the way the legend has taken hold of the literary mind.’ Both these New York Intellectuals press the claims to centrality of other magazines, in particular the New Leader. Arguing from a very different political stand­ point, the Trotskyist historian Alan Wald has explicitly attacked the no­ tion that membership of the New York Intellectual community ’depended on the extent of. . . involvement in Partisan Review’, emphasising instead the strand of historical experience represented by the Menorah Journal, the


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National Committee for the Defence of Political Prisoners and, finally, Commentary. He argues that the main reason Partisan Review has received so much attention is that Intellectuals have systematically underplayed the importance of their engagement with Trotskyism. Daniel Bell, letter. New York Times Book Review 3 May 1987: 54: Sidney Hook, ‘The Radical Comedians: Inside Partisan Review’, American Scholar 54 (1984-85): 45; Wald 6. 3 Neither Hook, Bell nor, for that matter, Wald, have seriously called into question Partisan Review’s cultural importance. Indeed, at various points all three acknowledge the magazine’s significance as a centre for literary intellectuals. Hook, for example, admits that PR ‘provided a forum for non-sectarian writing during a highly sectarian period in intellectual political life’. Hook, ‘Radical Comedians’ 46. 4 The fullest account of PR’s early existence is Terry A. Cooney’s The Rise of the New York Intellectuals: Partisan Review and Its Circle (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986). See also James E. Murphy, The Proletarian Movement: The Controversy over Leftism in Literature (Urbana and Chicago: Illinois University Press, 1991), for a polemical defence of the Communist Party’s literary programme. 5 Sidney Hook, James Burnham. Lionel Trilling and Meyer Schapiro all held professorial posts (Hook and Burnham at New York University, Trilling and Schapiro at Columbia). Nonetheless, most members of the community enjoyed few intellectual career opportunities during the 1930s. For a breakdown of employment of Jewish male Intellectuals in this period, see Stephen A. Longstaff, 'The New York Intellectuals: A Study of Universalisai and Particularism in American High Culture’, diss., UCLA, 1978, 375-6. 6 Stephen A. Longstaff, ‘The New York Family’, Queen’s Quarterly 83 (1976): 561. 7 See chapter 2 for an extended discussion of PR’s attempt to claim Modernism on behalf of the New York Intellectuals. 8 Charles Kadushin, The American Intellectual Elite (Boston: Little, 1974) 14. 9 Karl Shapiro, foreword, Letters of Delmore Schwartz, ed. Robert Phil­ lips (Princeton: Ontario Review Press, 1984) xii. 10 Alexander Bloom, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) 81. 11 The inclusion of young Chicago intellectuals in the PR circle was partly the result of a visit by Philip Rahv to that city in 1941. Despite doubts about his own personal future on the magazine, Rahv set about recruiting new contributors as soon as he arrived. In a letter to a felloweditor he remarked: ‘So far we’ve managed to meet quite a few new people.

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and the best of them by far are the apprentice writers like Bellow and Kaplan.’ Philip Rahv, letter to F. W. Dupee, 5 April 1941, F. W. Dupee Papers. Butler Library. Columbia. 12 Harold Kaplan, letter to F. W. Dupee, n.d. [probably 1941], Dupee Papers. 13 Leslie Fiedler, ‘Partisan Review. Phoenix or Dodo?’, Perspectives 15 (1956): 82. 14 See William Phillips, A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Literary Ufe (New York: Stein, 1983) 124-7, 189, and William Barrett, The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals (New York: Doubleday, 1982) 105-11, 113-17. 15 Partisan Review 13 (1946). 16 See below, chapter 1. 17 Phillips, Partisan View 203; Barrett, Truants 107. 18 ’Angel With a Red Beard’, Time 30 June 1947: 64. 19 James Gilbert, Writers and Partisans: A History ofUterary Radicalism in America (New York: Wiley, 1968) 188-9. 20 Alan Lelchuk, ‘Philip Rahv: The Last Years’, Images and Ideas in American Culture: The Functions of Criticism. Essays in Memory of Philip Rahv, ed. Arthur Edelstein (Hanover: Brandéis University Press, 1979) 211. 21 Philip Rahv, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 20 April 1944, R. P. Blackmur Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton; Phillips, Partisan View 145. 22 ‘Results of the PR Questionnaire’, Partisan Review 8 (1941): 344-8. 23 Daniel Aaron, personal interview, 6 September 1988. According to Aaron, it was considered risqué and glamorous to be seen with a copy of PR, a gesture of defiance towards senior academic colleagues. 24 Lionel Trilling, letter to F. W. Dupee, 23 March 1939, Dupee Papers. 25 ‘Results of Questionnaire’ 348. 26 Fiedler, Partisan Review 84. 27 Benjamin Ray Redman, rev. of The Partisan Reader, ed. William Phillips and Philip Rahv, Saturday Review ofUterature 28 December 1946: 18. 28 Norman Podhoretz, Making It (New York: Random, 1969) 115. 29 Fiedler, Partisan Review 93. 30 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (Lon­ don: Seeker, 1983) 120; Allred Kazin, Starting Out in the Thirties (London: Seeker, 1966) 160. 31 Irving Howe, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 8 May 1949, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 7 April 1949, Macdonald Papers.


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32 Dwight Macdonald, letter to F. W. Dupee. 2 September n.y. [prob­ ably 1938], Dupee Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Harold Rosenberg, 7 June 1938. Macdonald Papers. 33 Barrett, Truants 59. 34 Daniel Bell, personal interview, 18 October 1988. 35 There was a history of bad feeling between Delmore Schwartz and Paul Goodman - see James Atlas, Delmore Schwartz: The Ufe of an American Poet (New York: Farrar, 1977) 60-1, and Barrett, Truants 218-20. Rela­ tions between Rahv and Goodman were poor as well; the latter once admitted that ‘the prospect of sitting on a board with me would make Rahv’s hair stand on end'. Paul Goodman, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 36 Paul Goodman, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 37 Barrett, Truants 59. 38 Phillips, Partisan View 136. According to William Barrett, Philip Rahv was fond of repeating Diana Trilling’s description of Alfred Kazin as a ‘starry-eyed opportunist', and dismissed his prose style - which Irving Howe admired for its ‘rhetorical plenitude’ - as so much ‘schmaltz’. Barrett, Truants 46-7; Howe, Margin 145. 39 Alfred Kazin, letter to Richard Chase, 4 January 1950, Richard Chase Papers. Butler Library, Columbia. 40 Barrett, Truants 164. 41 Barrett, Truants 169-70. 42 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 28 August 1949, Chase Papers. 43 See below. 44 In 1948 Trilling was prompted ‘to speculate - 1mean Just curiously - what the PR crowd thinks of me - they are always so nice and always want to publish me; we are aware of our differences, but never deal with them in conversation’. Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, n.d. [prob­ ably December 1948], Chase Papers. 45 Delmore Schwartz, letter to James Laughlin, 16 January 1953, Delmore Schwartz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale; Alfred Kazin, letter to Richard Chase, 4 January 1950, Chase Papers. 46 Mike Gold, ‘Papa Anvil and Mother Partisan’, New Masses 18 Feb­ ruary 1936: 22-3. 47 Jack Conroy, ‘On Anvil’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History, ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie (New York: Jonkers, 1978) 111-27. 48 Phillips, Partisan View 38. 49 Diana Trilling, 'An Interview with Dwight Macdonald’, Partisan

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Review: The 50th Anniversary Edition, ed. William Phillips (New York: Stein, 1985) 314. 50 Mary McCarthy, ‘My Confession', Encounter 2.2 (1954): 46-8. 51 Elisabeth Niebuhr, ‘An Interview with Mary McCarthy', Paris Review 27 (1962): 72-3. 52 Phillips, Partisan View 15-45; Andrew James Dvosin, ‘literature in a Political World: The Career and Writings of Philip Rahv', diss., New York University. 1977, 13-16. 53 Niebuhr, ‘Interview’ 74. 54 Delmore Schwartz, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 16 February 1941, ed. Phillips, Letters 108; Delmore Schwartz, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably 1941], ed. Phillips, Letters 111. Schwartz also exploited the comic possibilities of the ethnic heterogeneity of PR’s editorial board. On one occasion he banteringly suggested to Macdonald that he write a book entitled ‘A Thousand Arguments with Philip Rahv and Other City Jews’. Delmore Schwartz, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably 1942], ed. Phillips, Letters 149. 55 Niebuhr, ‘Interview’ 71; Diana Trilling, ‘Interview’ 318; Wald, New York Intellectuals 85. 56 Carol Gelderman, Mary McCarthy: A Life (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1988) 81. 57 Hook, ‘Radical Comedians’ 47, 52. 58 Gelderman, Mary McCarthy 82. 59 Phillips, Partisan View 48. 60 In 1937, when the editors were gathering articles for the first issue, Rahv suggested that PR publish excerpts from a new book by Andre Gide harshly criticising Soviet society. Shortly afterwards, however, he with­ drew this proposal, fearing that it might deter literary contributors and provoke retaliation from the Communists. Rahv’s decision not to publish the Gide material met with opposition from Macdonald and perhaps from McCarthy. Dupee was later to claim that he too was in favour of going ahead with publication, but several documents suggest that in fact he shared Rahv’s reservations. After much equivocation, the excerpts were eventually published, in the new PR’s second issue (January 1938). It is perhaps significant that Dupee should inaccurately remember himself as supporting Macdonald and McCarthy against Rahv and Phillips. See Gilbert, Writers and Partisans 197-8 and Cooney, Rise 122-3, 299. 61 Bloom, Prodigal Sons 73. 62 Hook, ‘Radical Comedians’ 47, 61. 63 Stephen J. Whitfield, A Critical American: The Politics of Dwight Mac­ donald (Hamden: Archon, 1984) 17. 64 This was also the position of the League for Cultural Freedom and


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Socialism, an organisation of Intellectuals founded in June 1939 by Dwight Macdonald. The LCFS had a rival within the Intellectual commu­ nity in the shape of the Committee for Cultural Freedom, which Sidney Hook had helped found earlier in the same year. The CCF shared the LCFS’ abhorrence of totalitarian suppression of cultural freedom, but, crucially, not its commitment to social revolution. In other words, it ’represented the first organised effort by the New York intellectuals to separate antiStalinism from a revolutionary Marxist context’ (Wald, New York Intel­ lectuals 279). Although Rahv and Phillips signed the founding statement of the LCFS, and agreed to its publication in PR (‘War Is the Issue’, Partisan Review 6.5 [1939]: 125-7), they were by this stage probably more sympa­ thetic with the position of Hook’s CCF. Hence as early as 1938 PR's editorial board was pulled between two conflicting definitions of leftist antl-Stalinist politics. 65 On the PR editorial board Macdonald was supported in his revolu­ tionary pacifism by Clement Greenberg, who had joined the magazine in 1940, shortly after F. W. Dupee left to take up a permanent post at Columbia. Greenberg himself quit PR in 1943 for the Air Force. 66 Dwight Macdonald, letter to George L. K. Morris, 9 September n.y. [probably 1940], Macdonald Papers. 67 Dwight Macdonald, letter to George L. K. Morris, n.d. [probably early July 1942], Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to George L. K. Morris, 9 September n.y. [probably 1940], Macdonald Papers. 68 Dwight Macdonald, letter to George L. K. Morris, 25 July n.y. [prob­ ably 1942], Macdonald Papers. 69 Hook, ’Radical Comedians’ 49. 70 Phillips, Partisan View 279. Still, had careerism been all that mo­ tivated Rahv and Phillips, they would probably have tried to procure Jobs in one of the new government agencies spawned by the New Deal. 71 Dwight Macdonald, William Phillips and Philip Rahv, letters. Partisan Review 10.3 (1943): 82-3. 72 Longstaff, ’New York Intellectuals’ 333. 73 Barrett initially suspected that Phillips and Rahv had invited him to join PR’s editorial board because they mistakenly believed his wife had money. William Barrett, letter to Delmore Schwartz, n.d. [probably 1946], Schwartz Papers. 74 In his memoirs Barrett recounts how he ‘disappeared into the [Jewish] throng’ and became, for all intents and purposes, an ‘assimilated’ Jew. Barrett, Truants 21-4. 75 Delmore Schwartz coined one of his famous bon mots about this aspect of Rahv’s personality: ‘Philip Rahv does have scruples, but he never lets them stand in his way.’ Barrett, Truants 73. For two accounts of

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Phillips' ill-fated attempt to reform Rahv, see Barrett, Truants 39-45 and Phillips, Partisan View 272-3. 76 Barrett, Truants 10. 77 Cooney, Rise 141. 78 Bloom, Prodigal Sons 73. 79 Philip Rahv, letter to Robert Penn Warren, 25 April 1942, Southern Review Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale. 80 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 10 September 1943, Allen Tate Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. 81 Delmore Schwartz, letter to Philip Rahv, 7 November 1943, Schwartz Papers. 82 Phillips, Partisan View 138. 83 Philip Rahv, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 21 June n.y. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 84 Macdonald, Phillips and Rahv, letters; William Phillips, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably July 1943], Macdonald Papers; Gertrude Buckman, letter to Delmore Schwartz, n.d. [probably August 1943], Schwartz Papers. 85 George L. K. Morris, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 21 July 1943, Macdonald Papers. 86 George L. K. Morris, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 10 August n.y. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 87 George L. K. Morris, letter to Dwight Macdonald. 4 August n.y. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers; see below, chapter 5. 88 Philip Rahv, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 21 June n.y. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 89 Philip Rahv, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 21 June n.y. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 90 Philip Rahv, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 28 July 1943, Macdonald Papers. 91 George L. K. Morris, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 11 July 1943, Macdonald Papers. 92 Gilbert, Writers and Partisans 248. 93 Philip Rahv, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 20 April 1944, Blackmur Papers. 94 Philip Rahv, letter to Morton Dauwen Zabel, 13 September 1946, Morton Dauwen Zabel Papers, Newberry Library, Chicago. 95 ‘Light Up in London', Time 10 March 1947: 58. 96 Philip Rahv, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 20 April 1944, Blackmur Papers. 97 Philip Rahv, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 20 April 1944, Blackmur Papers.


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98 Schwartz wrote to R. P. Blackmur telling him: *1was not supposed to speak of the new difficulty in keeping PR going, and I wish you would say nothing about it to anyone because the impression of failure appears to have the wrong effect on everyone who is not concerned.’ Delmore Schwartz, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 12 November 1945, Schwartz Papers. 99 Phillips. Partisan View 141. ’Angel with a Red Beard’, Time 30 June 1947: 64. 100 Barrett, Truants 145. 101 Barrett, Truants 144-7. 102 Phillips, Partisan View 80, 143-5. 103 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald. 20 December 1949, Macdonald Papers. 104 Phillips, Partisan View 143-5. 105 Phillips, Partisan View 141. 106 Helen Constas, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 4 August 1946, Mac­ donald Papers. 107 Catherine Carver, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 20 August 1947, Macdonald Papers. 108 Phillips, Partisan View 145.

C h ap ter 2

Partisan R eview in the 1940s: the claiming of Modernism During the 1940s Partisan Review continued its attem pt to con­ struct an intellectual identity and programme based on the New York Intellectuals’ historic experience of m arginalisation. As in the 1930s this involved attaching great positive value to detach­ ment, separation and independence. The concept of the vanguard remained the magazine’s favourite paradigm of intellectual com­ munity. However, as the editors grew disenchanted w ith M arxistLeninism, the content of their vanguardism changed. Believing th at Communism had failed, they rejected the concept of a cadre of professional revolutionaries in favour of an idea associated with the Modernist movement in the arts, the cultural avant-garde. Their main duty, they now believed, was to im itate the avant-garde by cutting the ties th at bound them to society and, having thus achieved a state of perfect independence, protect and cultivate Modernist culture. This is not to say they ceased to think of themselves as political radicals. Rather, like their contemporaries, the émigré German Marxists of the Frankfurt School, they had come to view Modernism as one of the few surviving oppositional forces in society, and therefore thought th at by helping to preserve it they were performing a radical function. Having thus evolved a theoretical rationale for their turn away from politics towards culture, they now were able to devote their considerable intel­ lectual energies almost exclusively to criticism of modern literature. Specifically they engaged in two projects: inventing a theory of the condition of the modem artist, and constructing a Modemist canon. Inevitably, their theory and their canon were inscribed by their characteristic intellectual values and concerns. In particular, as a comparison w ith leading Marxist cultural theoreticians reveals, they reflected their experience of political disappointment.


The cultural avant-garde

I As their faith in radical politics faded, PR’s editors felt a profound sense of political - and cultural - despair. W hereas previously they had believed in the dynamic of class struggle, now they regarded America as a static mass society, vulnerable to periodic unrest in the shape of populist or nativist upheavals, but incapable of a proper social revolution. The classic classes of bourgeoisie and proletariat had disappeared, to be replaced by ‘middlebrow’ and ’lowbrow’ cultural formations - and the differences between middlebrows and lowbrows were inconsequential. Basically, both were passive consumers of banal, stultifying mass-produced cultural forms. Furtherm ore, both were prone to political reaction, middlebrows to Stalinism and lowbrows to demagogic m anipulation. In the face of this cretinous, one-dimensional society, PR’s editors affirmed their sense of themselves and the New York Intellectual community as an isolated and beleaguered m inority culture. Throughout the 1940s PR devoted considerable space to attacks on so-called middlebrow culture. One institution in particular was held up for ridicule, the university. Indeed, the editors even created an occasional departm ent, ’Report from the Academy’, so th at regular academic contributors could sound off about the in­ adequacies of the American college system. In one ’Report’ Newton Arvin (of Smith College) condemned the typical professor of liter­ ature as a literary ignoramus. In another Richard Chase (of Columbia) inveighed against the graduate schools for fostering obscurantism and philistinism.1 Elsewhere in the magazine articles often contained passing derogatory comments about academic practices, as when ]. F. Wolpert in the course of an essay on the ‘American Intelligentsia’ described the Ph.D as a ‘pulverised particle of knowledge’.2 However middlebrowism was not, in PR’s view, confined to the universities. It was to be found as well in commercial magazines like the New Yorker - which according to William Barrett was designed to appeal to ‘the new and rapidly growing audience of the sophisticated middlebrow zombie’3- and, perhaps surprisingly, the Stalinist leadership of the American Communist movement. Ever since the Communists’ adoption in 1935 of a Popular Front cultural programme - later described by Norman Podhoretz as consisting of ‘the traditions of realism and naturalism in the arts

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


[and] genteel belle-lettrism or populist rhetorising in critical dis­ course’4 - PR’s editors had equated Stalinism w ith middlebrowism. In 1939 Philip Rahv accused American Stalinists of possessing the genteel and chauvinistic cultural norms of the liberal middleclasses.5 Ten years later Lionel Trilling inverted the equation, sug­ gesting th at the Stalinist impulse originated in middle class liberal culture: ’Stalinism becomes endemic in the American middle class as soon as th at class begins to think; it is a cultural Stalinism, independent of any political belief.6 Echoing Trilling Irving Howe observed th at the Communism of literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman ‘was hardly political even, but rather mere cultural barbarism ’, and then w ent on to state his fears th at individuals like Hyman were: heralds of the brisk, business-like, highly efficient, immensely productive, clever, all-knowing, and quite tasteless critics of the Stalinoid, popular culture future.7 For PR, then, Stalinism belonged to the same middlebrow con­ tinuum as obnoxious cultural phenonm ena like academicism and commercialism. On one side of the divide stood the New York Intel­ lectuals; on the other the vast m onolith of middlebrow, liberal, potentially Stalinist culture. Then there were the lowbrows. If PR regarded middlebrowism w ith sneering disdain, its attitude towards American popular culture was one of repugnance mingled w ith horror. While the former was, it believed, trivial, formulaic and Stalinist, the latter was mindless, chaotic and demagogic. Daniel Aaron wrote ‘of a mindless people doped by the pulps, the tabloids, and the cinema, a people ripe for catastrophe’.8 Robert W arshow believed th at George Herriman’s Krazy Kat cartoons were so irrational they de­ fied intellectual analysis.9 And so on. Supplying the demand for lowbrow culture were new mass-production industries like Holly­ wood film companies, and these were growing at an alarmingly fast speed. Developments in technology and an expanding m arket had, William Barrett explained in an article entitled ‘The Resist­ ance’, enabled cultural industrialists to organise their workforces in assembly lines, and increase production rates several times over. This process was far more advanced in the US than in, say, the Soviet Union, where industrial technology was comparatively primitive, or France, where cultural production, geared for a luxury


The cultural avant-garde

export market, was not yet fully industrialised. Inevitably the prod­ ucts of the American culture industries were bland, repetitive and ‘inauthentic’. Thus the industrialists did not profit so much from the surplus value of the workers as from the ignorance and bore­ dom of the consumers, ‘the inert passive masses to be m anipulated by dictators in culture as by dictators in politics’.10 Making this bad situation even worse was a peculiar feature of local cultural geography. During the late 1930s and early 1940s PR’s editors complained repeatedly th at the US had failed to evolve a m ature intellectual tradition. Throughout the nation’s history, they claimed, writers and artists had been baffled and frustrated by the absence of a continuous intelligentsia. Edgar Allan Poe, for example, had had the instincts of a literary bohemian, yet was condemned to live out his existence in individual isolation. ‘Hence he lacked those professional resources of aesthetic and social sub­ version th at is normally provided by an organised bohem ia.’11 Over the years the editors blamed a variety of factors for this state of affairs: America’s notorious cultural provincialism, the deadening legacy of Puritanism , a fatal split between highbrows and lowbrows (or ‘palefaces and redskins’, in Rahv’s famous formulation), and the ‘cult of experience’ which allegedly had prevailed after 1900. W hatever was causing it, the consequences of this lack of intel­ lectual tradition were, the editors believed, disastrous. The exist­ ence of a stable intelligentsia was, in their view, a necessary precondition for the creation of great art and literature. W ithout a recognised tradition and accepted standards, the national culture was doomed to grow increasingly incoherent and banal. At this stage it is w orth pausing to note certain correspondences between the thinking of the New York Intellectuals during the 1940s and th at of the Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School who, as noted in the Introduction, shared the Intellectuals’ state of disillusion w ith M arxist-Leninist praxis, and their m arginal pos­ ition in American society. Both groups regarded m ature capitalist society as a seamless totality, one in which contradictions between productive forces and relations had effectively been abolished. They also shared a very negative view of the technologisation of cultural production as leading to a massified, homogeneised culture. The Intellectuals’ lowbrow bears a strong resemblance to Theodor Adorno’s ‘m utilated worker’.12 Finally, both had an apocalyptic vision of the future, one in which the traum atised masses erupted

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


in directionless and barbaric violence. It has been observed that the Frankfurt intellectuals interpreted American culture in the light of their experience of Nazi Germany.13 Much the same could be said of the New York Intellectuals, although in their case the country of comparison was Stalinist Russia. II Despite their growing political and cultural pessimism, the vanguardist question remained for PR’s editors: w hat was to be done? In particular, w hat were the New York Intellectuals to do? The editors were quick to dismiss one course of action favoured by other sections of the disillusioned western left, th at is, a retreat into aestheticism or mysticism. On several occasions they fiercely de­ nounced the doctrine of art for art’s sake. For example, in 1947 they responded to complaints th at PR was devoting excessive space to coverage of political issues by asserting the necessity of ’engage­ m ent’ and lambasting the quietism of ‘the Genteel Reader’.14 The contents of the summer 1945 issue of the magazine resembled nothing so m uch as an impromptu international symposium about engagement. Jean-Paul Sartre contributed an article entitled ’The Case for Responsible Literature’ in which he reminded writers of their social responsibilities and exhorted them to reengage in political struggle.15 In ’Modern W riters in a World of Necessity’ Stephen Spender decried the prevalence of ’personalism’ in AngloAmerican literary discourse and urged intellectuals to take a more active part in the process of post-W ar reconstruction.16 (Still, nei­ ther article contained any specific recommendations for political action, and Spender’s in particular sounded a fundamentally pes­ simistic note.) Elsewhere in the same issue Philip Rahv used a review of a collection of essays by A rthur Koestler as a platform for launching an attack on the ’yogis’, intellectuals like W. H. Auden who, traum atised by the horrors of the recent political past, had sought spiritual consolation in transcendent religions.17 Still, PR’s editors were adam ant about the corruptions and perversions of ’official radicalism’. While sternly rebuking the ’yo­ gis’, Rahv reserved his harshest criticisms for the ’commissars’, those intellectuals who had failed to disengage from Communism despite the iniquities of the Stalin regime. American exemplars of this intellectual type included not only Communists but fellow­


The cultural avant-garde

travelling progressives as well, the ‘Stalinised liberals’ and ’Soviet myth-addicts . . . who have by now accumulated sufficient num ­ bers to serve as a fifth column aiding and abetting Stalin’s foreign policy of duplicity and aggression’.18 Hence at the same time as he preached the necessity of engagement, Rahv rejected out of hand the possibility of the New York Intellectuals reattaching themselves to the American Communist movement. But in w hat were the Intellectuals to engage, if not organised political struggle? For PR, the answer lay in Modernism, or more precisely the Modernist concept of the cultural avant-garde. During the late 1930s and early 1940s they gradually invested this concept w ith an immense political significance. Their reasoning was as follows. As Communism and capitalism tightened their totalitarian grip on the world, critical consciousness had receded until the point where it had almost vanished altogether. In the early decades of the tw entieth century the Modernist avant-garde had achieved a degree of autonomy from capitalist civilisation, and having done so created a literature th at constituted a radical critique of ’the bourgeois spirit’.19 Now, in the 1940s, the literary tradition estab­ lished by the great moderns represented a radical resource, indeed more than that, a last refuge for the revolutionary impulse. As William Barrett put it: Literature involves more than the Individual w riter's going off by himself to write; as an activity w ithin and against society, it involves the perpetual struggle to keep standards alive, an audience from disintegrating, a certain kind of consciousness alive in a society inert or hostile to it.20 According to Barrett’s analysis, ’going off by oneself to w rite’ was not politically irresponsible. In fact it was precisely the w riter’s independence from society th at made w riting a politically radical act. Taking this logic a step further, William Phillips declared th at ’the will to independence of the elite may be said to have a political meaning, insofar as it constitutes an attack on the conditions th at create and imprison the elite’.21 Again it is difficult not to rem ark on the similarity between the thought of PR’s editors concerning the political signficance of the avant-garde, and th at of the Frank­ furt School. For example, Theodor Adorno conceived of the ’auratic’, ’herm etic’ avant-garde as a ’progressive’ social force pre­ cisely because it had managed to attain some independence of a

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


'totally adm inistered’ society, and thus represented one of the few rem aining potential sites of resistance to the ‘instrum entalised rationality* of corporate capitalism.22 Modernism was one of the only progressive forces in the world, yet it was in constant danger, or so PR's editors believed. On the one hand, the dom inant middlebrow culture and its representative fig­ ures - academics, businessmen, government officials - were seeking to destroy it. In a riposte to Karl Shapiro’s Essay on Rime, a poem w hich demanded the reinstatem ent of ’simplicity’ and ’belief in place of Modernist ’skepticism’, William Barrett alleged a conspir­ acy against Modernism involving literary figures as various as the ’cultural nationalist’ Van Wyck Brooks, the ’Stalinist’ critic F. 0 . M atthiessen and the literary editor of the New York Times, J. Donald Adams. Nor, Barrett suspected, was this conspiracy confined to literary circles - ’crusaders in the anti-m odernist w itch-hunt’ might be found everywhere, am ongst the ’tweedy professors of English, the Book of the Month businessmen, the nostalgic fantasists of A m ericana'.23 Another, and far more insidious, threat facing Modernism was ’kitsch’. Kitsch was the nam e given to cultural artefacts th at incorporated elements of high art yet were intended for middlebrow consumption. According to Clement Greenberg, the New York Intellectual expert on the topic, kitsch used: for raw m aterial the debased and academicised sim ulacra of genuine culture . . . The precondition for kitsch, a condition w ithout which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully m atured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions and perfected self-consciouness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends. It borrows from it devices, tricks, strategems, rules of thum b, themes, converts them into a system and discards the rest.24 The process whereby the culture industries were appropriating Modernism for their own purposes was accelerating: the forms of ‘genuine culture’ were being reproduced and circulated in ever greater volume, the distinction between authentic and inauthentic a rt blurring and disappearing. It was a desperate situation. The New York Intellectuals’ duty was clear. Like the avant-garde of earlier times, they m ust detach themselves, or ’secede’ from so­ ciety so th at they might protect and nurture the Modernist literary tradition; in the absence of a viable revolutionary movement, they


The cultural avant-garde

m ust sever all social ties and devote themselves to the task of guard­ ing the flame of high culture. This was bound to be a lonely, danger­ ous business. Modifying and extending the military m etaphor of the avant-garde, William Barrett compared the refusal of the Intel­ lectuals to surrender Modernism to the dom inant middlebrow cul­ ture w ith the determ ination of a ‘Resistance’ movement not to ‘collaborate’ during an enemy ‘Occupation’.25 Hence, by virtue of the simple expediency of attributing tremendous political import­ ance to Modernism, PR had enabled the New York Intellectuals to adopt the identity of a cultural avant-garde while still retaining a self-image as political radicals. Moreover, it had imputed them with a collective sense of stoical heroism. Most im portant of all, it had told them w hat to do. Still, it was not altogether clear why it was the New York Intel­ lectuals who had been entrusted w ith guardianship of Modernism. After all, they were not artists themselves, or at least very few of them were. The question could therefore be asked, why did they think themselves w orthy to fulfil so im portant a role? PR’s editors were ready w ith an answer. As they explained on num erous occasions around this time, the Modernist literary tradition had been created in the first place for detached intellectuals like them­ selves. For example, Philip Rahv believed that: To speak of modem literature is to speak of th at peculiar social grouping, the intelligentsia, to which it belongs . . . Regardless of their specific historical meanings, most of the typically modem literary tendencies . . . could not have become articulate save through the support, through the necessary social framework, provided by this relative detachm ent of the intellectuals.26 According to William Phillips: [M]odera a r t . . . could not have come into being except through the formation by the intelligentsia of a distinct group culture, thriving on its very anxiety over survival and its consciousness of being an elite.27 Hence PR’s editors laid the basis of their claim to ownership of the Modernist tradition. However, stating th at Modernism belonged to intellectuals was not equivalent to proving th at it belonged to the New York

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


Intellectuals. The question remained, why were the New York Intel­ lectuals better qualified than some other intellectual group for the task of guarding Modernism? Why were they picked out, so to speak? Throughout the 1940s, in hundreds of articles and reviews, PR developed the argum ent th at the New York Intellectuals were privi­ leged w ith a unique understanding of Modernist culture. Some­ times this claim was asserted overtly and explicitly. For example, in a 1948 symposium on T he State of American W riting’, Leslie Fiedler argued that, among Americans, it was writers like himself - ’typically urban, second-generation Jews, ex-Stalinist, ambiv­ alently intellectual’ - who were the true heirs of the great moderns. Not only had they successfully integrated European and American literary traditions, escaping ’completely the polar tug of a defensive chauvinism and an embarrassed self-abnegation before continental culture’, they were also capable of modulating between the intellect and the im agination, of thinking intelligently at the same time as they wrote imaginatively: In this mediation, to be sure, the great exiles, James and Eliot, and the Southern Agrarians have preceded the writers of our generation, but our situation is perhaps closer to the center than their special cases of expatriation or regionalism.28 More often, though, the claim th at the New York Intellectuals possessed a uniquely modern sensibility was implicit. Delmore Schwartz’s 1945 article, ‘T. S. Eliot as the International Hero’, is a case in point.29 The importance of T. S. Eliot to PR’s editors is well known. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s his writings exerted a crucial influence over the development of their literary criticism.30 In particular, the Eliotic concept of Tradition, th at is a canon con­ sisting of a small num ber of great texts, dominated their thinking. Even in the 1980s William Barrett still believed that: the great works of the modern masters, in all of the arts, are those which draw most deeply on the resources of the tradition, and which in turn enter the body of tradition and give it a deeper and a richer life.31 The tradition, of course, was only revealed to a few privileged individuals, of whom Eliot clearly was one. In order to establish their membership of this critical elite, PR’s editors had somehow to prove th at they shared Eliot’s literary sensibility.


The cultural avant-garde

Schwartz's article w ent a long way to doing just th a t According to Schwartz, Eliot possessed a truly universal consciousness, one which transcended spatial and temporal boundaries; all of moder­ nity was present in his writing. The secret of Eliot’s universality lay in the peculiar conditions which had shaped his consciousness. 'Only an American', wrote Schwartz, who was both 'cosmopolitan and alienated could have seen Europe as it is seen in The Waste Land".*2 ‘American’, 'cosm opolitan', and ‘alienated’ - the words Schwartz had chosen to describe Eliot applied equally well to him­ self and his colleagues. If these really were the attributes of a sen­ sibility capable of intuiting the Tradition, then PR’s editors qualified on all counts. Schwartz had, of course, neglected to mention several features of Eliot’s sensibility - his political conservatism, High Church Anglicanism and polite anti-Semitism - which could not be reconciled with the New York Intellectuals. As will be seen shortly, in the next chapter, these contradictions would later return to haunt PR. For the time being, however, the editors were glad to associate themselves w ith Eliot, and thereby reinforce their claims to custodianship of Modernist literature. Ill Having dem onstrated the political importance of Modernism, then claimed Modernist art for the New York Intellectuals, PR undertook a new critical project: an attem pt to theorise the personal condition of the modern writer. In the course of this project the editors drew on a num ber of different theoretical sources. Despite having aban­ doned their faith in the practical dimensions of Marxist-Leninism, they continued to employ the Marxist concept of alienation when describing the w riter’s relation to his/her work and his/her society (see below, chapter 3). Increasingly, however, they ranged outside Marxism, displaying a growing interest in bodies of theory primarily concerned not w ith society but w ith the individual. In this respect, as in so many others, their ideational manoeuvrings shadowed those of the Frankfurt Critical Theorists, whose investigations during the late 1940s into the roots of political authoritarianism eschewed 'structural factors, particularly class factors’ in favour of ‘analysis of subjective dispositions and attitudes’.33 The radically individualistic philosophy of Existentialism featured prominently in PR’s pages during this period. From 1945 on the

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


magazine watched closely as Jean-Paul Sartre used the phenomen­ ological method of M artin Heidegger to explore the hum an condi­ tion. There were clear parallels between the editors’ growing political and cultural pessimism and Sartre’s anguished acknow­ ledgement of the absurdity and contingency of modem existence. William Barrett in particular was fascinated by Existentialism. In 1945 he helped the émigré German intellectual H annah Arendt prepare an essay for PR which outlined the philosophy of her men­ tor Karl Jaspers; in a more light-hearted vein, he devised a ‘Dialogue on Anxiety’ between Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger (which was subsequently published in a PR pamphlet entitled ‘W hat is Existentialism?’).34 Throughout the late 1940s PR’s editors made frequent use of such concepts as ‘authenticity’ and ‘anxiety’ in their critical essays. Still, they did not adopt Existentialism wholesale, nor did PR become an American mouthpiece for Sartre and his followers. Per­ sonal relations between the New York Intellectuals and the Parisian Existentialists were somewhat strained, due to the latters’ Commu­ nist sympathies and predilection for American popular culture. Besides, there were other individualistic bodies of theory available to the Intellectuals. William Barrett has recalled of this period how PR’s editors ‘were all more or less saturated w ith psychoanalytic jargon. Psychoanalysis was at th at time very much in the air, and everyone seemed to be in it or contemplating it.’35 As the Intel­ lectuals’ hopes of a political and social revolution dimmed, so a desire for individual liberation from psychic repression increased. And it was psychoanalysis, not Existentialism, which seemed to hold the key to such liberation. In Barrett’s ‘Dialogue on Anxiety’ Freud clearly gets the better of Heidegger. The latter regards anxiety as a sign of authenticity, and insists on resoluteness in the face of death. Freud, however, attem pts to cure his patients of anxiety, and dismisses talk of death as morbid. The psychoanalyst is a hum ane practitioner, the Existentialist every inch the idealist German philosopher, lost in lofty m editation.36 As Barrett also observes in his memoirs, there were im portant differences in the ways the New York Intellectuals and previous generations of American radicals used psychoanalysis. The Green­ wich Village bohemians of the 1910s had constructed Freud as the prophet of a libertarian sexual revolution. In contrast, the New York Intellectuals regarded psychoanalysis as a clinical science;


th e cultural avant-garde

their Freud was solemn and pessimistic.37 Barrett might have illus­ trated this point by citing an article he had contributed to PR in 1946, a review of a book by Paul Goodman. In it, he had rebuked Goodman for representing psychoanalysis as a sort of ‘sexual Fabianism’. The clear implication was th at this reading of Freud was jejune and dated. Of course, Goodman already had a reputation for flouting communal conventions, both intellectual (Barrett refers to him in the course of his review as a ‘progressive’, a term of anathem a in the Intellectual lexicon) and sexual.38 Given the growing importance of psychoanalysis to PR’s editors, it was not surprising that, as Barrett puts it, ‘the question of art and neurosis began to occupy our minds, and bloomed as a theme in the pages of the magazine’.39 During the mid- and late 1940s PR carried a num ber of articles asserting the usefulness of psycho­ analytic concepts as aids to interpreting the lives and works of modem artists.40 Unfortunately the conception of the relationship between the artist’s psychology and the art-work th at emerged from these essays was somewhat reductive and deterministic, simi­ lar in a way to the vulgar Marxist notion of a direct relation be­ tween base and superstructure which the New York Intellectuals had criticised during the 1930s. In other words, the editors were insensitive to factors mediating literary meaning besides authorial psychology, and thus tended to concentrate exclusively on psycho­ logical factors, simply assuming the social alienation of the author as given. Also, just as they had hypostasised the social m arginality of the Modemist intellectual, so they began to conceive of neurosis as a sign of genius and authenticity. ‘Insensibly, a certain dispos­ ition crept in to consider neurosis as a privileged and special con­ dition, almost a gift th at the artist had to nurse and yet keep under control if he were to produce.’41 Although Barrett had gently chided the Existentialists for idealising anxiety, he and his colleagues now did precisely the same thing with regard to neurosis. In the autum n of 1946, a year after printing Freud’s famous essay ‘Dostoevsky and Parricide’ in its series of classic modem texts, PR carried an article by William Phillips entitled ‘Dostoevsky’s Underground Man’.42 Phillips emerges from this article as more Freudian than Freud himself. W hereas the latter had demurred from assuming a direct connection between authorial psychology and literary text, Phillips postulated an ‘organic’ relationship be­ tween Dostoevsky’s neuroses and the “‘prim ary’* m eaning of his

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


fiction’:43 his fictional characters share his neurotic anxieties and like him are incapable of separating their anxieties from their ideas; his novels touch constantly on his intellectual obsessions, such as the conflict between rationality and irrationality, and the relation of means to ends; and so on. The ’underground m an’ of the article’s title refers both to Dostoevsky himself and to a stock character in his fiction, the neurotic hero pathologically obsessed w ith some intellectual problem. Having established th at Dostoevsky’s fiction was a ’projection’ or ’eruption’ of his disturbed psyche, Phillips turned his attention to the origins of the ’underground m an’. Undoubtedly Dostoevsky’s neurotic heroes were inspired in part by other characters in Russian literature; also, they referred to the historical figure of the alienated modem urban intellectual. How­ ever, they were derived mainly from Dostoevsky’s own turbulent psychic history. ’Here is our underground man, emerging from the depths of his author’s pathology.’44 Finally, Phillips paid tribute to Dostoevsky’s literary reputation. The Russian novelist was, in Phil­ lips’ view, the prototype of the great modem writer, the ’brow­ beaten superm an’.45 It was because of, not in spite of, his abnorm al psychology th at he achieved greatness. Perhaps the most extreme statem ent of the thesis th at modem art was necessarily associated w ith neurosis was contained in William Barrett’s essay ’W riters and Madness’, which appeared in PR early in 1947.46 According to Barrett, the secret of artistic ‘authenticity’ lies in the artist’s own consciousness. Moreover, art only becomes authentic when the artist ’risks the maximum of his being’ and ventures to the edge of madness.47 To support these claims, Barrett cited the example of Jonathan Swift, who identified so entirely w ith the objects of his fantasy th at he longed to become a horse. Like Phillips’ Dostoevsky, Barrett’s Swift is an archetypally modem figure, driven by contradictory psychological forces, simul­ taneously sadistic and masochistic, aggressive and guilty. In Barrett’s view literary creation throughout the modem era has been controlled by the unconscious: the peculiarly terrifying nature of modem existence has induced unbearable anxiety in writers who, in order to protect their reality principle, have projected their anxiety into literature. Further aggravating this predicament is another modem phenomenon, the growth of the culture industries, whose products have acquired a pseudo-authenticity (note the insertion at this stage in the argum ent of an Existentialist concept).


The cultural avant-garde

To escape their pernicious influence, modern writers m ust exist in a state of terrible loneliness. 'W riters and Madness’ is remarkable not only for the importance it attaches to neurosis, but also for its abysmal pessimism about the personal condition of the modem artist. IV The invention of a theory of the condition of the modem artist was one of PR’s main critical projects during the 1940s. The other was divining the contents of the Eliotic tradition, or constructing a canon. The first point to make in this connection is th at although PR was so preoccupied w ith Modernism th at it ’cut enormous swathes of the literary past out of its scrutiny’ - for example ‘it would have been astonishing to hear a good word for Trollope or Thackeray’48 - it did nonetheless canonise several texts produced in the periods immediately preceding and immediately following the high Modemist era. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (described respec­ tively as ‘the last of the unalienated artists’ and, as mentioned, ‘the browbeaten superm an’)49 loomed large in the magazine’s pages a t this time. The former, it seemed to the editors, stood at the end of the realist period, the latter the opening of the modem, so th at together they defined the essence of Modernism. In more recent years, following the close of the Modernist era, the proletarian movement had made a promising beginning but ultimately, due to Stalinist ‘leftism’, failed to yield any canonical texts. The most im portant contemporary literary tendency, the editors believed, was the genre of pessimistic political fiction created by ‘secondgeneration’ Modernists like Ignazio Silone and A rthur Koestler.50 In spite of this interest in a few pre-modem and contemporary writers, PR was concerned chiefly with, as William Barrett put it, ‘rehearsing the sacred canon of the Great Modems’.51 As this quo­ tation suggests, the editors tended to construct Modernism as a monolithic cultural tradition, ignoring the fact th at the Modernist movement encompassed a wide range of diverse, indeed sometimes contradictory, artistic impulses and techniques.52 One consequence of this simplification was th at PR typically ascribed the peculiar characteristics of particular Modernist writers and genres to Modernism as a whole. For example, in one issue of the magazine Phillip Rahv wrote of the modem artist’s ‘obsessive introversion. . .

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


[and] bent toward the obscure and morbid’; in another William Phillips described modern art in terms of ’its plaintive egotism [and] its messianic desperation’.53 Introversion, obscurity, morbidity, egotism and despair were indeed traits of several Modernist artists and genres; but they were by no means characteristic of the entire Modernist movement. W hich Modernist writers and genres, then, did PR valorise? The editors were, of course, ardent devotees of T. S. Eliot. Eliot’s fellow Symbolist poets Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats also excited their adm iration, though to a lesser extent. W ith the exception of Delmore Schwartz, they were made uncomfortable by the formalist excesses of Symbolist poetics, and repelled by the ‘streak of the Midwestern crank, the cracker-barrel philosopher, in Pound’.54 Indeed, it was probably not so m uch Eliot’s poetry th at they admired as his mythic stature, his expatriate cultural sensibility and his dignified and ironic public persona. These were the qualities they prized in Henry James, the other major figure in their preModemist hall of fame besides Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. As Frederick Crews has pointed out, PR systematically neglected irreverent, dis­ reputable writers like Henry Miller and Jean Genet.55 Although Crews attributes this tendency to a fear of censorship on the part of the editors, it probably had as m uch to do with the highly con­ ventional code of sexual morality which operated w ithin the New York Intellectual community. After Eliot, the most exalted position in the editors’ Modernist canon was occupied by Franz Kafka. During the late 1930s and 1940s PR published more original writing by Kafka than by any other European Modernist.56 Throughout this period the editors enjoyed close contact w ith Kafka’s biographer and literary executor Max Brod (perhaps it was this advantageous arrangem ent th at prompted Leslie Fiedler to rem ark in the 1948 PR symposium on American writing that, among the great modems, Kafka ‘belongs particularly to us’).57 Finally, m uch of the creative w riting pro­ duced in this period by young associates of PR like Fiedler, Isaac Rosenfeld and Saul Bellow, bore the im print of Kafka’s influence. For example, Bellow’s novel Dangling Man, chapters of which were printed in PR, was imbued w ith a Kafkaesque sense of ‘rom antic deprivation and historical disorder’.58 By virtue of his anxiety, turm oil and hopelessness, Kafka seemed to PR’s editors quintessentially Modemist. Yet these qualities were


The cultural avant-garde

not in fact typical of Modernism; rather they were the peculiar attributes of a particular Modernist genre, German Expressionism. Kafka’s anguished and horrified réponse to modernity makes his novels typically Expressionist, literary counterparts to the paintings of Max Beckmann and the music of Arnold Schoenberg. Yet it also serves to distinguish him from other Modernist artists, such as the Cubists, who optimistically undertook a scientific study of their object world, or the Symbolists, who sought and found consolation in the medium of language. W hen PR's editors described Kafka, or the qualities they associated with him, as typically Modern, they were characterising the entire Modernist movement in terms of one of its constituent genres. Of course, one reason why PR gave so much attention to Kafka was the fact th at he fitted its pessimistic theory of the condition of the modern artist so well - and vice versa: the theory m ight have been invented with the German Expressionist specifically in mind. In other words, the two projects in which the editors had been engaged throughout the late 1930s and 1940s, the construction of a critical theory and a Modernist canon, were complementary, m utually validating. Given their appallingly bleak view of modern literature, it was inevitable the editors would canonise the most pessimistic of modern writers; considering th at their canon started w ith Dostoevsky and ended w ith Koestler, it is hardly surprising they regarded all modem novelists as morbid and desperate. In short, the relationship between theory and canon was circular. Still, this is not sufficient explanation of the cultural pessimism th at inscribed, and preceded, both. Why, in the first place, was PR inclined to valorise Kafka, and portray the situation of the modem w riter as Kafkaesque? The answer to this question lies partly in the magazine’s ongoing attem pt to claim Modernism on behalf of the New York Intellectuals. In order to substantiate this claim, the editors were bound to inflate the significance of the work of those Modernists whose circumstances and concerns corresponded with their own. The similarities between Kafka’s personal experience, th at of an alienated, urban, Jewish intellectual, and their own were striking - more striking certainly than the similarities between them and T. S. Eliot, Delmore Schwartz’s ’Culture Hero’ essay not­ withstanding. Hence it was not hard to see why they should valor­ ise his fiction and depict his personal condition as typical. Similarly, there were clear correspondences between their dismal view of the

Partisan Review; the claim ing o f M odernism


m odem artist as an alienated, angst-ridden neurotic hero and their own self-image. During the mid-1940s in particular the New York Intellectual community was a self-consciously neurotic environ­ m ent, many of its members suffering from manic depression and various unnam ed psychological illnesses, the most spectacular case, of course, being Delmore Schwartz. Indeed, it is possible to detect the figure of Schwartz, the Intellectuals’ very own poet maudit, lurking behind much of the criticism published in PR during this period, William Barrett’s contributions especially. In any event, It is reasonably apparent th at both PR’s Modemist canon and its theory about the condition of the modem artist were partly de­ signed to privilege the critical perspective of the New York Intel­ lectuals and thereby legitimate their claim to ownership of Modernism. Moreover, it could be argued th at by portraying the literary life as such a fraught, dangerous venture, the editors were seeking to discourage potential competitors from joining in it along­ side them. However, it would be simplistic to construe the editors’ critical theory and Modernist canon merely as elements in a strategy for consolidating and aggrandising their critical authority. Clearly their cultural pessimism had political meaning as well. After all, it was disenchantm ent w ith radical politics th at had occasioned their tu rn to culture in the first place. It is not difficult to decipher the political significance of their critical theory. By isolating the Marxist concept of alienation from its theoretical context, then combining it w ith ideas appropriated from the individualistic philosophy of Existentialism and the therapeutic science of psychoanalysis to cre­ ate a radically pessimistic theory of modem art, the editors were signalling their disaffection w ith M arxist-Leninist praxis. It is sug­ gestive th at the disillusioned Frankfurt Critical Theorists performed a similar theoretical manoeuvre around the same time. The political inscriptions on PR’s Modernist canon are less easy to read. It might however prove illuminating to compare the editors’ views on Modernism with those of leading European Marxist cultural theoreticians. Gyorgy Lukács, for example, explicitly decried the ideo­ logical effects of Expressionism. True, he held Modernism generally in low regard, viewing it as the culmination of the reifying tendency of naturalist aesthetics, but he reserved his harshest criticisms for Expressionism, which he regarded as an extreme example of capitalist mystification, objecting in particular to its representation of


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alienation as an immutable, absolute condition. Kafka he accused of replacing the world with his ‘angst- ridden version’.59 Had he had occasion to remark on PR's Modernist canon, he might well have accused the editors of advanced mystification and hopeless subjec­ tivism. Bertold Brecht, of course, had a far more positive opinion of Modernism than Lukács, but nonetheless showed little interest in German Expressionism, preferring instead French Cubism and Rus­ sian Constructivism for their concern with the constructedness of the object world and their optimism about such aspects of modernity as technology.60Signficantly, while PR canonised Kafka, it paid very little attention (almost none after the departure of Macdonald) to Brecht, Eisenstein and Meyerhold. When one considers th at the edi­ tors had professed the intention of synthesising Marxism and Mod­ ernism, this oversight is astonishing, and indicative of the real state of their politics. As one might expect, the European Marxist cultural theoreticians whose views on Modernism corresponded most closely with those of PR’s editors were the émigré German intellectuals of the Frankfurt School. Theodore Adorno in particular was strongly influenced by the literature, painting and music of the Viennese Expressionists.61 More generally, the Frankfurt School’s Critical The­ ory was inscribed with the same romantic despair about the dissolu­ tion of the individual subject in the face of bureaucratic control that pervaded the novels of Kafka. Surely it was no coincidence th at two groups of intellectuals who shared a profoundly pessimistic view of modern politics also shared similar literary tastes. The contents of PR’s Modernist canon eloquently bespoke the editors’ political de­ spair.

Notes 1 Newton Arvin, 'Report from the Academy’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 275; Richard Chase, ‘Report from the Academy’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 206-11. 2 J. F. Wolpert, ‘Notes on the American Intelligentsia’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 474. 3 William Barrett, 'The Resistance’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 482. In Robert Warshow’s view, the New Yorker invited its readers to feel ‘pseudo-aristocratic’ distaste for capitalist society but did not 'actually force [them] into conflict’. Robert Warshow, ‘Melancholy to the End’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 86-8. 4 Norman Podhoretz, Making It (New York: Random, 1969) 131.

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5 See Philip Rahv, ‘Twilight of the Thirties’, Partisan Review 6.4 (1939): 6-10. 6 Lionel Trilling, ‘The State of American Writing, 1948: A Sympo­ sium’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 889. 7 Irving Howe, letter to Richard Chase, 13 October 1948, Richard Chase Papers, Butler Library, Columbia. 8 Daniel Aaron, ‘The Truly Monstrous’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 105-6. 9 Robert Warshow, ‘Woofed with Dreams’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 587-90. According to Warshow, only one thing remained constant in Herriman’s cartoons: *Krazy Kat is about a cat who gets hit on the head with bricks.’ Warshow, ‘Woofed with Dreams’ 590. 10 Barrett. ‘Resistance’ 479-88, 485. 11 William Phillips, ’The Intellectuals’ Tradition’, Partisan Review 8 (1941): 488. 12 See Theodor Adorno, 'On the Fetish Character of Music and the Regression of Hearing’, The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, ed. Andrew* Arato and Eike Gebhardt (New York: Urizen Books, 1977), and ‘On Popu­ lar Music’, Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9 (1941): 17-48. 13 Bugene Lunn, Marxism and Modernism: An Historical Study ofLukács, Brecht, Benjamin and Adorno (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982) 161. 14 ‘A Note on the Genteel Reader’, editorial, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 106-8. 15 Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The Case for Responsible literature’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 304^8. 16 Stephen Spender, ‘Modem Writers in a World of Necessity’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 352-60. 17 Philip Rahv, ‘Testament of a Homeless Radical’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 398-402. 18 Rahv, ‘Testament’ 401. 19 Rahv, ‘Twilight’ 3-15. 20 William Barrett, ‘Pilgrim to Phillstta’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 129. 21 William Phillips, 'Eliot and Notions of Culture: A Discussion’, Par­ tisan Review 11 (1944): 309. 22 See the ‘Culture Industry’ chapter in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment (New York: Herder, 1972). 23 Barrett, ‘Pilgrim’ 126-9. 24 Clement Greenberg, ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’, Partisan Review 6.5 (1939): 40. 25 Barrett, ‘Resistance’ 482.


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26 Rahv. ‘Twilight’ 10-11. 27 Phillips. 'Intellectuals’ Tradition’ 482. 28 Leslie Fiedler. ‘The State of American Writing, 1948: A Sympo­ sium’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 872, 873, 874. 29 Delmore Schwartz. *T. S. Eliot as the International Hero’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 199-206. 30 See Harvey Teres, ‘Remaking Marxist Criticism: Partisan Review’s Ellotlc Leftism, 1934-1936’, American Literature 64 (1992): 127-53. 31 William Barrett, The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals (New York: Doubleday. 1982) 158. 32 Schwartz, ‘International Hero* 201. 33 Lewis A. Coser, Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and Their Experiences (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984) 96-7. 34 Hannah Arendt, ‘What Is Existenz Philosophy?’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 34-57: William Barrett, 'Dialogue on Anxiety’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 151-9. 35 Barrett, Truants 38. 36 Barrett, ‘Dialogue’ 151-9. 37 See Barrett, Truants 230. 38 William Barrett, ’Man Without Super-Ego’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 393-4. See above, chapter 1. 39 Barrett, Truants 230. 40 See, for example, William Barrett, ‘History of an Unhistorical Mind’, Partisan Review 11 (1944): 313-21; Saul Rosenzweig, ‘The Ghost of Henry James’, Partisan Review 11 (1944): 436-55; Robert Gorham Davis, 'Art and Anxiety', Partisan Review 12 (1945): 310-21. 41 Barrett, Truants 230. 42 William Phillips, ‘Dostoevsky’s Underground Man’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 551-61; Sigmund Freud, ‘Dostoevsky and Parricide’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 530-45. 43 Phillips, ‘Dostoevsky’ 552. 44 Phillips, ‘Dostoevsky’ 561. 45 Phillips, ‘Dostoevsky’ 552. 46 William Barrett, ‘Writers and Madness', Partisan Review 14 (1947): 5-22. 47 Barrett, ‘Madness’ 7. 48 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (Lon­ don: Seeker, 1983) 141. 49 Philip Rahv, ‘Concerning Tolstoy’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 432; Phillips, Dostoevsky 552. 50 See below, chapter 3. 51 Barrett, Truants 72.

N otes


52 As Raymond Williams has written of the Modernist era: ‘Schools or movements repeatedly succeeded each other, fused or more often frag­ mented in a proliferation of isms. Within them Individuals of marked singularity pursued their apparently and in some ways authentically autonomous projects, readily linked by the historian but often directly experienced as isolated and Isolating. Very diverse technical solutions were found, in each of the arts, to newly emphasised problems of repre­ sentation and narration.’ Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Ox­ ford: Oxford University Press, 1977) 53. 53 Rahv, ‘Twilight’ 12: Phillips, ‘Intellectuals’ Tradition’ 482. 54 Howe, Margin 152. William Barrett remembers that: ‘Though Rahv was a professed champion of modernism . . . nevertheless he was really uncomfortable before some of the complex experimentations of the moderns, and he put up with them only as a matter of principle.’ Barrett, Truants 200-1. 55 Frederick Crews, ‘The Partisan’, New York Review of Books 23 Nov­ ember 1978: 3. 56 In May 1938 PR carried a section of the biogaphy of Kafka by Max Brod, and in the summer of 1946 an excerpt from Kafka’s diaries. Max Brod, ‘Kafka: Father and Son’, Partisan Review 4.5 (1938): 19-29; Franz Kafka, ‘Diaries (1917-1923)’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 353-62. Between 1939 and 1942 PR published three of Kafka’s short stories, ‘Blumfield, an Elderly Bachelor’, ‘In the Penal Colony’, and ‘Josephine, the Songstress, or, The Mice Nation’. 57 Fiedler, 'American Writing’ 872. 58 Howard Temperley and Malcolm Bradbury, ‘War and Cold War’, Introduction to American Studies, ed. Malcolm Bradbury and Howard Tem­ perley (London: Longman, 1981) 250. 59 Quoted in Peter Faulkner, Modernism (London: Methuen, 1977) 69. 60 See Lunn, Marxism and Modernism 121-4. 61 Early in his intellectual career Adorno spent two years (1925-26) in Vienna during which time he came into close contact with the avantgarde enclave surrounding the Expressionist composer Arnold Schoen­ berg. This experience was ‘pivotal. . . for [his] education as an aesthetic and social thinker’ and particularly ‘important in forming his notion of available forms of “negation’’ in late bourgeois society’. Lunn, Marxism and Modernism 196, 198.

C h ap ter 3

Politics, Pound and patronage: Modernist contradictions By ascribing momentous political importance to Modernism, and then associating the New York Intellectuals w ith the Modernist concept of the cultural avant-garde, Partisan Review’s editors had performed a tremendous service for the Intellectual community: they had enabled it to adopt the programme of a literary bohemia while retaining the identity of a radical political m ovem ent Yet their claiming of Modernism was also, in several respects, deeply problematic and contradictory. To begin with, contrary to their avowed intention of protecting Modernism from contam ination by such influences as political ideology, their own treatm ent of modern literature remained highly political. Second, the assumption on which so much of their thinking during this period was based th at Modernism was implicitly radical - was historically inaccurate: many leading Modernists were in fact political conservatives. In 1949 they were forced to confront this contradiction when the Bollingen Prize for Poetry was awarded to the Fascist sympathiser Ezra Pound. Third, and most im portantly, the position of the cul­ tural avant-garde had by mid-century quite simply become un­ tenable. This rendered PR useless as a guide to positive action, political or cultural, for the New York Intellectuals. This chapter examines each of these problems in turn, then in its final section turns to consider the editors’ response to an alternative intellectual programme proposed to them by Lionel Trilling at the close of the 1940s. I Throughout the 1940s PR’s editors had attempted to synthesise the paradigms of the political vanguard and the cultural avantgarde, to achieve a modulation between the conflicting doctrines

Politics, Pound and patronage


of engagement and aestheticism, to represent, as they themselves put it, ‘a spirit at once partisan and skeptical, passionate and dis­ abused, at once . . . political and literary'.1 As their productivity and influence during these years attested, they enjoyed a great deal of success in this endeavour. Ultimately however they failed: commitment to culture/aestheticism proved irreconciliable with commitment to politics/engagement. Their failure was evidenced by contradictions in their literary tastes and critical practices. At the same time they denounced others for submitting art to the narrow requirements of a political cause, they themselves promoted ex-Communist writers whose work explored the political experi­ ences of revolutionary despair and deradicalisation. Similarly, al­ though they argued th a t critics should not bring ‘metaphysical commitments’2 to their appreciation of the art-work, their own literary criticism contained a substantial residue of Marxist theory. PR was unbending in its opposition to ‘leftist’ literature, th at is fiction which it regarded as embodying a vulgar Marxist aesthetic. Stalinism, the editors believed, had thoroughly corrupted the liter­ ary generation of the 1930s: under its influence, the naturalist tradition, which in the time of Maxwell Anderson and Theodore Dreiser seemed so promising, had degenerated into vapid folkishness. Throughout the 1940s PR mercilessly pilloried writers whose fiction still bore the stamp of Popular Front-style populism. Isaac Rosenfeld’s description of the cast of characters in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row was typical: Mack and the boys, and Doc, good old Doc, who runs the m arine laboratory, plays Gregorian chants on the gramophone and recites poetry translated from the Sanskrit to say nothing of good old Dora who runs the local brothel and her good old girls, and good old Lee Chong the grocer, and good old everyone and the dog.3 Europeans who appeared to have allowed their writing to become contam inated by Communism received similar treatm ent. For instance, Louis Aragon, the French Surrealist poet turned advocate of Socialist Realism, was characterised by one reviewer as ‘a versifying Vishinsky'.4 Generalising from these cases, the editors concluded th a t ideology, which they defined to mean abstract political theory, tended to distort or falsify representations of lived experience. Therefore literature, which in contrast was a supremely


The cultural avant-garde

accurate medium for depicting social reality, had to be shielded from contact w ith ideology.5 Leaving to one side the theoretical problems of this formulation of the relationship between ideology and literature,6 the editors' valorisation of non-political w riting was in fact contradicted by their own literary tastes. During the 1940s PR displayed consid­ erable interest in European writers like A rthur Koestler and George Orwell whose work treated such political themes as the breakdown of revolutionary movements and the rise of the totalitarian state. The editors closely monitored the development of this new genre of political fiction, still hopeful th at the radical experience might yield a literature which was both politically engaged and formally accomplished. Rahv described Koestler as 'both the poet and ideo­ logue of the homeless radical’; his review of Orwell’s 1984 was a hymn of praise (according to William Barrett, Rahv was so impressed by 1984 th at he would quote passages of it in conver­ sation); and so on.7 PR also printed several short stories by writers in its own imme­ diate circle which addressed the themes of radical disillusionment and political terror. In 1945 Isaac Rosenfeld won first prize in a PR novelette competition w ith ‘The Colony’, an allegory about the relation between revolutionary ends and means and the demise of the individual personality in a totalitarian society. The story con­ cerns the brutal crushing by an imperialist power of a native passive resistance movement in one of its colonies. Although the locale suggests India in the last years of the British Raj, and the two principal characters strongly resemble M ahatma Gandhi and Jaw aharlal Nehru, ‘The Colony’ clearly belongs to the new tradi­ tion of fiction describing the ideological crises and personal suffer­ ing of the western intellectual in the Stalinist era. Stylistically and structurally, it is reminiscent of Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.* ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’ and ‘The Other M argaret’, two short stories by Lionel Trilling published in PR during this period, shared some of the political concerns of ‘The Colony’, but were considerably less bleak and pessimistic. Both stories depict a pro­ fessional m an (a college professor in one case, a publisher in the other) in the process of deradicalisation, or at least of conversion from former beliefs to a stance of moderate scepticism. In Trilling’s fiction, disillusion is not accompanied by anguish and despair, but rather by irony and ambivalence. Indeed it is possible to read ‘The

Politics, Pound and patronage


Other M argaret’ as a sort of fictional apology for deradicalisation. The narrative Is constructed around a series of incidents which reveal the inability of ideology to comprehend the ambiguities and complexities of experience. Deradicalisation is constantly equated w ith personal m aturity, and generally portrayed as salutary and liberating.9 PR’s editors were clearly impressed by Trilling’s attem pts to fictionalise the experience of deradicalisation. W hen James T. Farrell, writing in the New International, alleged th at ’The Other M argaret’ was ’cleverly organised to present a reactionary moral view w ith insidious persuasiveness’ and therefore provided ’a revealing account of the escapism of w hat might be called the Partisan Review intellectual’, they quickly printed a riposte by Irving Howe accusing Farrell, inter alia, of vulgar critical reductionism, and claiming that, ’Had it been Trilling’s purpose to ad­ vance a thesis on morality, he would have w ritten an essay.’10 On another occasion, after Trilling had published a novel. The Middle of the Journey, w ith roughly the same subject m atter and narrative structure as ‘The Other M argaret’, Philip Rahv wrote to congrat­ ulate him: It is a daring work and a first rate piece of writing. To my mind, it is the first truly serious political novel by a contemporary American writer, something we are not at all used to in our literature, in which the political theme is handled on the shallow level of external behavior. It is prob­ ably this very originality of the novel and its forms of consciousness which will make it difficult for many people to appreciate w hat you have done.11 Rahv’s enthusiasm for Trilling’s novel was prompted partly by its formal qualities, w hat he called its ‘substantial novelistic virtues’. The Middle of the Journey and the earlier short stories were self-consciously literary works. Overt references to politics were almost entirely absent from them; they constantly privileged exper­ ience over ideology; their prose style reminded reviewers of E. M. Forster and Henry James. Trilling’s fiction was political yet, it seemed to PR’s editors, it was unm arred by the simplifications and falsifications of ideology. In other words, it was political literature. As Rahv pointed out, this made Trilling unique am ongst American w riters. For th at m atter, none of the European ex-radical novelists


The cultural avant-garde

whom PR championed had, in the editors’ view, achieved the same degree of experiential verisimilitude. (Books by writers like Koestler and Victor Serge were seldom reviewed in PR w ithout some refer­ ence being made to stylistic deficiencies.12) Trilling’s literary talents notwithstanding, the editors’ claim th at his fiction was not ideological does not bear up to scrutiny. For example, the Forsterian style of ’The Other M argaret’ does not conceal the fact th at the story is an apology for deradicalisation, and therefore ideologically motivated. Nor does the fact th a t The Middle of the Journey criticises ideology by comparing it unfavour­ ably w ith experience somehow make the work non-ideological. Quite the reverse: Trilling’s derogation of ideology is, by definition, ideological. The editors’ eagerness to believe th at Trilling had tran ­ scended ideology sprang, presumably, not only from their ongoing search for aesthetically acceptable political fiction, but also from their sympathy for Trilling’s anti-ideological political position. His constant valorisation of the perspective of the m ature, disabused, sceptical ex-radical was bound to gratify them, as this perspective was so similar to their own. In fact, one m ight almost say that, despite their rejection of ideology, PR's editors were still receptive to political fiction - as long as the w riter concerned shared their political convictions, and made some attem pt to disguise them. Just as they never finally abandoned their interest in the political novel, so PR’s editors persisted in employing Marxist concepts in their literary criticism. In 1942 Philip Rahv declared that, ideally, the literary critic should achieve ‘aloofness from abstract systems’. Abstract commitments, ‘either of the spiritualist or m aterialist variety’, distorted understanding of the text in hand. Throughout the 1940s, contributors to PR repeatedly attacked critics who had committed the error of ‘succumbing to metaphysical leanings’.13 In one issue David T. Bazelon dimissed the Stalinist Edwin Berry Burgum as a ‘vicious fool’. In another Irving Howe characterised the Marxist James T. Farrell as ‘The Critic Calcified’ and the Prog­ ressive F. 0. M atthiessen as ‘The Sentimental Fellow-Traveller’.14 It is therefore somewhat puzzling th at a significant element of Marxist theory can be detected in the editors’ own critical writings of the period. Rahv’s essay ‘Concerning Tolstoy’, which appeared in PR in 1946 and was subsequently included as an introduction in a Dial Press collection of the Russian w riter’s short novels, is a case in

Politics, Pound and patronage


point.15 In it Rahv argues th at the key to understanding Tolstoy is to view him as ‘the last of the unalienated artists’.16 W hereas other writers of his age were affected by the capitalist division of labour, and succumbed either to commodity or art fetishism, Tolstoy’s origins in the pre-capitalist class of the Russian peasant-patriciate protected him from the worst ravages of alienation, and enabled him to carry on creating art in a productive interchange w ith nature. Unlike the Romantic artists who sentimentalised the natu­ ral world as a refuge from the industrialised city, or the neurotic urban intellectuals who identified themselves w ith ’westernising’ and ’Slavophile’ ideologies, Tolstoy was a complete hum an being, unfragmented by alienation, at one w ith nature, psychologically well adjusted and ‘authentic’. This was why, explained Rahv, his novels possessed such organic unity, combining both ideas and im agination, morality and elements of magic. Although it contains traces of psychoanalytic theory and Existentialist philosophy, the conceptual framework of ‘Concerning Tolstoy’ is basically Marxist. Rahv’s understanding of art as a hum anising, sensual, productive activity is derived from Marx. So too, of course, is the view of art under capitalism as a form of alienated labour. Hence Marxist theories about art and alienation are central to ‘Concerning Tolstoy’. Finally, Rahv’s fundamentally historicist interpretive strategy reflects his training as a Communist literary critic. Indeed, ‘Concerning Tolstoy’ is sufficiently Marxist for it to bear comparison w ith writings about similar topics by better-known Marxist cultural theoreticians, such as Gyorgy Lukács. According to Lukács, Tolstoy and other realist novelists surmounted the ‘reifying’ effects of alienation by reintegrating the hum an subject and the object world. Thus realist fiction represented the social ‘totality’. Moreover, Lukács believed th at the greatest realist literature of the capitalist era had been w ritten at the begin­ ning of the nineteenth century, when massive social transform ­ ations had enabled novelists to resist the process of reification, and th at afterwards there had only been decline.17The correspondences between Lukács’ writings about realism and reification, and Rahv’s portrayal of Tolstoy as one of the last artists capable of uniting subject and object, are very striking. Moving on from Lukács, one is also struck by homologies between passages in ‘Concerning Tolstoy’ and more recent writings by Marxist critics concerning the relative autonomy of art and the complexity of factors mediating


The cultural avant-garde

literary texts. For example, Rahv’s sensitivity to the specificities of Tolstoy's historical context and social location - in particular his notion of a pre-modern peasant-patriciate - remind one of Raymond Williams’ concept of residual social formations and ideologies.18 To sum up, ’Concerning Tolstoy’ is a highly imaginative, even pro­ phetic venture in Marxist literary criticism. This is not to say th at Rahv was still practising a form of revol­ utionary literary criticism during the 1940s. Ten years previously, as a proletarian critic, he had assumed th at literature could raise revolutionary consciousness, and confidently set about prescribing the literary forms of a post-revolutionary culture. His criticism then was optimistic and prescriptive. ’Concerning Tolstoy’, in contrast, was pessimistic and descriptive. Rahv’s Lukacsian conception of Tolstoy’s novels as total expressions of reality, perfect integrations of hum an subject and object world, was certainly not revolutionary in its implications. As Bertold Brecht pointed out in the course of a controversy w ith Lukács, fiction which transcended the effects of alienation effectively impeded the growth of revolutionary con­ sciousness.19 Moreover, by describing Tolstoy as ’the last of the unalienated artists’ (italics added), Rahv effectively wrote off all subsequent literary endeavour as hopeless, and precluded the pos­ sibility of revolutionary action. Finally, by his willingness to employ such non-Marxist concepts as neurosis and inauthenticity, Rahv betrayed the fact th at Marxism was now little more to him than a device for analysing literary texts. Be that as it may, the im portant point to note here is th at Rahv and his fellow editors on PR were still deploying Marxist theory in their literary criticism, at a time when their advice to other critics was to stop doing so. This was not untypical of the contradictory nature of many of their literary pronouncem ents around this time. They denounced some writers for being too political, others for not being political enough; they accused some critics of excessive for­ malism, others of bowing to theoretical systems; they dismissed some intellectuals as ’yogis’, others as ‘commissars’. Still, it was by no means clear where they themselves stood on a num ber of questions. For example, w hat exactly in their view were the politi­ cal responsibilities, if any, of the modern artist?

Politics, Pound and patronage


n Intimately related to questions of this nature was a glaring and disturbing anomaly. As Raymond Williams has observed, ‘the poli­ tics of the avant-garde, from the beginning, could go either w ay . . . to Fascism or to Communism; to social democracy or to conserv­ atism and the cult of excellence’.20 Many of the Modernist writers whose work the editors had canonised were political conservatives. T. S. Eliot, for example, ‘advocated a largely rural society run by a few “great families” and a small elite of theological intellectuals m uch like him self.21 Not only that, he had, during the 1920s, toyed w ith the fascistic ideology of the Action Française. How were the editors to explain this contradiction between their oft-stated radical political views and their literary canon? On a more personal level, how, as Jews, were they to deal w ith Modernist anti-Semitism? Eliot’s conservatism raised several other problems. His deeply pessi­ mistic view of industrial civilisation and, for th at m atter, his concept of literary tradition were inextricably bound up w ith his authori­ tarian politics. It was a m atter of no small importance th at the editors’ distinguish their own brand of radical pessimism from Eliot’s conservatism. Were they to do so, however, they ran the risk of losing their privileged position as interpreters of the Eliotic tradition. Adding to their difficulties was the fact th at there were other American literary critics besides themselves who could plausibly claim th at they shared Eliot’s sensibility. W hen Delmore Schwartz identified the conditions which had shaped the consciousness of the expatriate ‘international hero’, he omitted a significant detail. Eliot was bom into an old St Louis family. Thus his roots lay in the nineteenth century Southern aristocracy - a fact which goes some way to explaining his horror of modernisation. In this respect his experience was more like th at of the New Critics associated w ith the Sewanee and Kenyon Reviews than the New York Intel­ lectuals. Nor did the similarities between Eliot and the New Critics end there. They also shared a nostalgia for the pre-industrial, pre­ capitalist past, and a tendency towards political reaction. Eliot’s vision of the organic society had m uch in common w ith the ideal­ ised version of the old South contained in the 1930 Agrarian mani­ festo Vll Take M y Stand. Furtherm ore Eliot and the New Critics had sim ilar literary tastes. The literary canon constructed in the


The cultural avant-garde

Sewanee and Kenyon, insofar as it privileged poetry over other literary forms, and valorised the Metaphysics over other English poetic genres, reproduced exactly the ideal order of Eliot’s tradition. Finally, and not surprisingly in view of the homologies between their politics and literary tastes, Eliot and several leading New Critics were close personal friends. In sum, the New Critics seemed rather better qualified to interpret the modern tradition, as it was defined by Eliot, than the New York Intellectuals. The Intellectuals’ ’relation to literary modernism was less authoritative and more ambiguous than they liked to suppose'.22 In 1949 an event took place which forced PR’s editors to confront these various contradictions and problems. Early in th at year Ezra Pound was awarded the Bollingen Prize for Poetry for his Pisan Cantos by a jury composed of Library of Congress Fellows in Ameri­ can Letters, who included T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Allen Tate, Robert Penn W arren and Robert Lowell. The award was contro­ versial, as during the W ar Pound had spent several years in Italy broadcasting Fascist propaganda over the Rome radio, and after being returned to the US, had been diagnosed insane and commit­ ted to a sanitarium . Moreover, the Pisan Cantos contained a num ber of virulently anti-Semitic passages, such as the following: the yidd is a stim ulant, and the goyim are cattle in g /t [sic] proportion and go to saleable slaughter w ith the maximum of docility.23 Anticipating opposition to their decision, the Bollingen judges issued a public statem ent w ith their announcem ent of the award, declaring that: To permit other considerations than th at of poetic achievement to sway the decision would destroy the significance of the award and would in principle deny the validity of th at objective perception of value on which any civilised society m ust rest.24 Many commentators were not satisfied w ith this statem ent. The Saturday Review of literature carried two articles by Robert Hillyer criticising the jury’s choice, castigating Modernist literature and the New Criticism, and urging Congress to investigate a Fascist ’plot’. The main effect of these remarks was to confirm the judges in their opinion th at they had performed a disinterested and

Politics, Pound and patronage


courageous act and prompt other literati to express support for the award. Allen Tate and John Berryman wrote a letter of protest to the Saturday Review of Literature, which was signed by eighty-four writers and critics. W hen the Review refused to print this letter, M argaret M arshall volunteered to run it instead in the Nation.25 Meanwhile Dwight Macdonald strongly defended the award in his magazine Politics, and was praised almost universally for doing so.26 The American literary community had risen up in arm s to defend the principle of ‘objective perception of value’ against the middlebrows and philistines. For once, though, PR did not join in the crusade. As Irving Howe later observed, ‘Pound was never our p o e t. . . [He] was their poet, idol of the right wing of modernist culture.’27 Pound’s antiSemitism made it impossible even for the poet Delmore Schwartz to admire him. In 1939, after reading his book Culture which, like the Cantos, contained several anti-Semitic passages, Schwartz wrote to Pound tendering his ‘resignation: I w ant to resign as one of your most studious and faithful adm irers.’28 Immediately after the end of the War, when Pound was being tried as a traitor, the editors declined to take part in a movement in his defence organised by the New Critics and the Chicago magazine Poetry. Reporting this decision to R. P. Blackmur, Schwartz explained: ‘it is observed th at no one’s actions can be defended on the ground th at he is a great poet, as he is’.29 Schwartz was of the personal opinion th at the ‘real question . . . is w hether one can say th at a poet is better than other hum an beings as a hum an being’.30The announcem ent of the Bollingen award in 1949, coming as it did only a few years after the Holocaust, dismayed the editors. Irving Howe remembers Philip Rahv growling ‘It’s a provocation.’31 Schwartz is reputed to have accused Allen Tate of masterminding a Fascist conspiracy along w ith Eliot and other more shadowy figures.32 Nevertheless, the editors hesitated before publicly declaring their opposition to the award. First, they were reluctant to appear to side w ith middlebrow opinion against Modernism. They were un­ nerved, to say the least, to discover th at they agreed with Robert Hillyer and not w ith T. S. Eliot. Second, principled opposition was made difficult by the fact th at the Bollingen judges had defended the award by invoking the ‘objective perception of value’. Chal­ lenging their decision would therefore mean having to argue that calculations of artistic value should include more than merely


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formal, aesthetic considerations and that, by implication, the artist had social and political as well as artistic responsibilities. In other words, the Bollingen Prize had forced PR's editors at last to confront and resolve the contradictions inherent in their dual commitment to aestheticism and engagement. Thus 'the battle between aestheti­ cism and engagement was suddenly focused on one person’.33 Finally, disputing the propriety of the aw ard would necessarily involve them in conflict with another influential group of literary intellectuals. One way of viewing the judges’ decision is to see it as a show of strength by the New Critics. Allen Tate and Robert Penn W arren ranked prominently on the jury; 'the objective perception of value’ was a typical New Critical formulation. Still, PR’s editors could hardly stand by silent while a notorious anti-Semite was honoured in public. In the words of Irving Howe, 'despite growing friendships w ith certain New Critics, we still had our own distinctive outlooks and interests to defend’.34 The job of writing an editorial in protest at the Bollingen aw ard fell to William Barrett, PR’s one gentile editor - a move presumably intended to forestall allegations of special pleading. Barrett’s article reflected the editorial board’s mood of uncertainty and hesitancy. Rather than condemning the award, Barrett suggested th at the statem ent which had accompanied it might have given a fuller and franker account of the judges’ decision. It might, for example, have ac­ knowledged the offensiveness of certain passages in Pound’s poem. Also, it might have contained a clearer statem ent of the judges’ view of the relation between literary form and content. This, it seemed to Barrett, was the most im portant question raised by the award: 'How far is it possible, in a lyric poem, for technical em­ bellishments to transform vicious and ugly m atter into beautiful poetry?’35 Barrett’s editorial provoked a confused response. Some inter­ preted it as a defence of the Bollingen jury’s decision. The Daily Worker, for example, devoted a column to denouncing Barrett under the impression th at he favoured the award. According to Dwight Macdonald, even PR’s printer was unsure ‘w hether he’s for or against’. In Macdonald’s view, the editorial’s ambiguity was intentional: it was a 'chef d’œuvre of doubletalk . . . calculated to lull those favoring the award while tipping the wink to those against it’.36 Ambiguous or not, Barrett’s article excited an angry reaction from many of the aw ard’s supporters. A correspondent of

Politics, Pound and patronage


Macdonald’s reported th at PR was ’being flooded w ith angry letters as a result of that editorial!’37 Several of these letters were from outraged members of the Bollingen jury. Robert Lowell was rum oured to have w ritten ‘th at one of his grandm others was partly Jewish and th at she was the most charm ing and gracious lady etc and th at therefore he will never again speak to any of the PR editors’.38 Allen Tate w ent a step further. Barrett had, he claimed, impeached the honour of the Bollingen judges. ‘Courage and honor are not subjects of literary controversy, but occasions of action.’39 Thus Barrett became the first New York Intellectual - at least in Irving Howe’s reckoning - to receive a challenge to a duel.40 W hat is clear is th at many of the attacks on PR were motivated by a desire to settle old scores. Traditional enemies of the magazine were delighted by its em barrassm ent.41 The Pound dispute pointed up the tenuousness of the New York Intellectuals’ relation to the American literary past and, in addition, placed their claims to custodianship of the Modernist tradition in doubt. These attacks seem to have the effect of strengthening the resolve of PR’s editors and the New York Intellectuals. Lionel Trilling told a friend that: because of the responses Philip Rahv has said th at literary people are sick and ought to stop telling the world how to behave until they are themselves cured. A simple statem ent but coming from him momentous.42 The next issue of the magazine contained seven short pieces dealing w ith ‘The Question of the Pound Award’ and a ‘Further Comment’ by Barrett. The pieces included Tate’s challenge to a duel and a defence of the award by W. H. Auden (the editors decided not to print the letter from Lowell, who had recently been committed to a sanitarium ).43 The bulk of the comments, however, expressed opposition to the award and support for Barrett’s editorial. Both Clement Greenberg and Irving Howe questioned w hether the Pisan Cantos merited a prize even when judged by aesthetic standards alone. This was not their main objection, however. Howe protested th a t the judges’ decision implicitly relegated hum an below aesthetic values while Greenberg, echoing Rahv, described his revulsion at the ‘art-adoration’ and ‘art-silliness’ which prevailed in literary circles, where ‘the moral idiot is tolerated as perhaps nowhere else in society’.44


The cultural avant-garde

Perhaps predictably, though, the two most telling statem ents of opposition to the award came from outside the New York Intellec­ tual community. Karl Shapiro, the one dissenting member of the Bollingen Jury, denounced the aw ard on the grounds th at Pound’s Fascism corrupted the Cantos even on a formal level. Art, Shapiro argued, possesses a moral function. Therefore, as Fascism is a cen­ tral theme of Pound’s poem, it m ust be adjudged an inferior art­ work.45 More trenchant still was the analysis of the aw ard’s ideological significance provided by Smith College professor Robert Gorham Davis. Pointing out th at several members of the Bollingen jury, notably Tate, W arren and Eliot, were known to hold similar political beliefs to those expressed in the Cantos, Davis suggested th at ’the judges were judging themselves along w ith Pound, their m aster’.46 Indeed the award m ight be viewed as the culm ination of a reactionary ideological programme reaching back many years. Ironically, the doctrine of aestheticism th at had been invoked to defend the judges’ decision was itself an element in this programme. Davis’ and Shapiro’s comments saved PR’s editors from further em barrassment. The latter’s reformulation of the relation between literary form and content - which effectively denied th at there was any dichotomy between the two - enabled the magazine to adopt an anti-formalist position while claming th at it had not banished formal considerations altogether. This perhaps explains why in his ’Further Comment’ Barrett expressed enormous adm iration for Shapiro’s contribution. Still, there was no escaping the fact th at PR’s relations with the ’right-wing of modernist culture’ had suffered irreparable damage as a result of the Pound dispute, and th at the editors had been forced to address the problems of the doctrine of art-for-art’s-sake. In his final word on the m atter Barrett, utilising Davis’ insight that aestheticism was in fact a historical construct, admitted that: the attitude which holds aesthetic considerations to be primary is far from primary itself, but produced by very m any historical, social, and moral conditions.47lI Ill PR’s attem pt to justify its turn to culture in political term s, by politicising the concept of the cultural avant-garde, had proved unsuccessful both in practical terms - despite their professed

Politics, Pound and patronage


allegiance to the doctrine of cultural autonomy, the editors still valorised political fiction and practiced political criticism - and, for th at m atter, in theoretical terms - the Pound dispute had shown that, insofar as Modernism had any political tendency, it was not necessarily radical. However, this was not the most contradictory aspect of PR’s avant-gardist identity. Far more problematic was the fact - which the editors themselves had long acknowledged th at independent intellectuals like themselves were undergoing a process of institutionalisation, and th at the ideal of the avant-garde was therefore impossible to realise in practice. As early as 1939 Philip Rahv had gloomily observed th at societies the world over had ’accommodated’ their intellectual classes, by force in the totalitarian states, and ’organically’ in the capitalist democracies.48 This process of incorporation had, according to PR’s analysis, accelerated w ith the advent of war. In 1944 William Phil­ lips remarked th at ’society is now finding it Just as profitable to rationalise the production of ideas as the production of commodi­ ties’. Consequently, the intellectuals’ ‘will to independence has now become inseparable from the sheer effort to survive’.49 Elsewhere in the same issue, A rthur Koestler urged intellectuals to resist w ar­ tim e mobilisation and cling to the standards of ’independent think­ ing’.50 Despite their efforts to combat the effects of war, PR’s editors suspected th at nationalism and conformity had corrupted young American writers. Delmore Schwartz, for example, believed that: every conceivable tem ptation not to be honest, not to look directly at experience, not to remember the essential vows of allegiance to the intelligence and to hum an possibility and dignity - every conceivable tem ptation and every plea of convenience, safety and casuistry has presented itself.51 Philip Rahv traced the deterioration of intellectual values which had occurred during the W ar directly to a transform ation in the social and economic status of the intellectual class. Before the W ar, he pointed out, ’a good many of our intellectuals were no better off than lumpen-proletarians, a position which enabled them to assume positions of bohemian intransigence towards society’. How­ ever, the expansion of government agencies associated w ith the New Deal and the W ar effort m eant th at prestigious and well-paid jobs had suddenly become available to intellectuals, and they were ’converted almost to a man into lumpen-bourgeois’.52


The cultural avant-garde

In addition to the lure of government employment, intellectuals had also to resist the blandishments of the flourishing culture industries. Such resistance was growing steadily more difficult, especially in New York, where these industries had established their headquarters. In the words of William Barrett, the philistines had infiltrated the avant-garde citadel.53 The Time-Life Building and the offices of the major publishing houses were only a subway ride away from Greenwich Village. The little magazines could not compete financially with their mass-circulation counterparts for the work of young writers. The inducements to write ‘slick formula novels or plays or wthink-piecesn for periodicals’ were considerable. However, the bohemians who ’make good’ in the accepted m onetary sense are faced with a psychological crisis. For if, symbolically speaking, they move from the coldwater flat to the elevator apartm ent, they are risking surrender to the world they condemn, and divorce from the creative source which has given their work substance . . . There is constant pressure on the avant-gardist who has won recognition to apply his talents to the construction of easy affirmations and plausible rationalisations of the cultural status quo.54 By the end of the 1940s institutionalisation was, it seemed to PR's contributors, all but complete. In his piece for the 1948 sym­ posium on ’The State of American W riting’, Clement Greenberg wrote: It seems to me th at the most pervasive event in American letters over the last ten years is the stabilisation of the avant-garde, accompanied by its growing acceptance by official and commercial culture. It has modified th at culture to a limited extent and has in return been granted a recognition and place th at do not dissatisfy it. The avant-garde has been professionalised, so to speak, organised into a field for careers: it is no longer the adventure beyond ratified norms, the refusal in the name of the tru th and excellence to abide by the categories of worldly success and failure. The avant-garde w riter gets ahead now, and inside established channels: he obtains university or publishing or magazine jobs, finds it relatively easy to be published himself, is asked to lecture, participate in round tables, etc., writes

Politics, Pound and patronage


introductions to the classics, and can even win the status of a public figure.5S So the avant-garde had lost its struggle to stay aloof from bourgeois civilisation, the independent intellectual institutionalised. To adapt William Barrett’s metaphor, the Resistance had been forced to collaborate. The lesson for PR was clear: the editors would have to devise an alternative intellectual programme for the New York Intellectuals th at took account of their new institutional location. Already the Pound dispute had forced them to reconsider the politics of Modernism and acknowledge the limitations of aestheticism. Now it was obvious that, in mid-century America, the Intellectuals could no longer aspire to the independence of the classic Modernist avantgarde. The recuperative pressures exerted by the dominant society were simply too great. Indeed, the situation was such that, by con­ tinuing to identify themselves as an avant-garde, the Intellectuals were making themselves even more vulnerable to institutional recu­ peration. Consequently there seemed little to be gained by continuing to preach the necessity of detachm ent and separation, while at the same time lamenting the fact th at such a state was practically unat­ tainable. By 1950 PR’s old brand of radical cultural pessimism was useless to the New York Intellectuals. But w hat was to replace it? IV Contrasting sharply w ith Clement Greenberg’s narrative of avantgarde decline was Lionel Trilling’s contribution to the 1948 PR ’State of American W riting’ symposium. According to Trilling, high culture lacked ’an aggressive impulse of survival’. Talk of defeat was, he charged, frivolous: ’it isn’t serious enough, it doesn’t properly estimate the seriousness of the situation, for it is only a frivolity to say th at the situation is hopeless’. It was not impossible, Trilling admitted, th at the American w riter was doomed eventually to failure. But he isn’t helped to do w hat still remains to him to do by thinking about the deplorable conditions of his work. If he is to vanish, it is appropriate th at he vanish in maledictions rather than in a self-commiserative sociological analysis of the discrepancy between his function and his fate.56


The cultural avant-garde

It is interesting to note th at this was not the first time Trilling had used PR's pages to voice disagreement w ith the magazine’s radically pessimistic theory of the condition of the modem artist. In a 1945 article, ’A Note on Art and Neurosis’, he had implicitly criticised the rather deterministic use to which the editors and many contributors were putting psychoanalytic concepts in their literary criticism by suggesting that, while it was no doubt trae many great writers suffered from neurosis, this condition alone did not explain their greatness. Far more im portant in his view was their genius for transforming their neurotic fears and obsessions into art. The fashionable argum ent th at posited a necessary link between art and neurosis was, he suspected, merely an intellectual inflection of the ancient myth th at artists were inevitably doomed to psychological torm ent.57 Hence it is possible to view Trilling’s contribution to the 1948 symposium as the culm ination of a critique of PR’s radical pessimism th at he had launched three years earlier. Also w orth noting in this connection are certain remarks made by Trilling’s Columbia University colleague and personal friend Richard Chase in 1948 concerning the use of the concept of alien­ ation in literary criticism. W riting in the Sewanee Review, Chase attacked a recent critical trend which he labelled ’ordealism’. ’Ordealist’ critics, he explained, ’assume th at the essential aesthetic and moral quality of art is alienation’; in their hands, ’criticism becomes not the study of books but the study of suffering and failure’.58 Although Chase did not mention PR by name, his comments were instantly recognised as being targeted at the editors’ pessimistic theory of the condition of the modern artist. Also, the relation between his views on alienation and Trilling’s on neurosis, while ’largely associational and temperamental rather than logically necessary’, was evident nonetheless.59 These comments need to be viewed in the context of an ongoing intellectual project. Throughout the 1940s Trilling - w ith occa­ sional help from Chase - had been evolving a complex and nuanced critique of American liberalism, concerned particularly w ith w hat he believed to be the liberal tradition’s main inadequacy: its lack of im agination. As he explained in the preface to his highly influ­ ential 1949 collection of essays, The Liberal Imagination, liberalism lacked ‘a sense of variousness and possibility’: in its pursuit of the aim of the rational organisation of hum an life, it had tended to

Politics, Pound and patronage


deny the importance of the emotions and the im agination.60Trilling was not attacking liberalism; his argum ents w ith it were of a very different order from the hostile, often vindictive anti-liberal state­ ments made by PR, Rather, his aim was to strengthen liberalism, first by drawing liberals’ attention to their imaginative deficiency, then indicating a means of remedying it. That means, Trilling w ent on to suggest in the preface to The Liberal Imagination, might be discovered in ’the hum an activity th at takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty’ - literature.61 Referring to the example of John Stuart Mill, who had once encouraged fellow liberals to learn the poetry of the conservative Coleridge, Trilling now urged his readers to read modem literature, in order th at they might find out about the darker promptings of hum an nature. Literature, criti­ cism and politics were, he asserted, intimately and inevitably con­ nected. The proper occupation of literary critics should therefore be to engage in criticism of the liberal im agination. Hence Trilling proposed a literary-political modulation of a kind similar to that proposed by PR ten years earlier, although in this instance the political component involved was liberalism, not Marxism. Considering the nature of the project in which Trilling was engaged, it is not hard to see why he, and his colleague Chase, should have objected to the cultural and political pessimism pur­ veyed by PR. Where the magazine assumed the w riter and, by implication, the critic were doomed to suffering and failure, they predicted a far more optimistic future for literature; where it had defended the doctrine of cultural autonomy, they insisted on the political utility of art; where it had denounced liberals in the name of a failed radicalism, they commended the tenets and aims of liberalism; above all, where it had argued th at intellectuals should strive to attain a state of avant-gardist independence, they proposed th a t intellectuals reattach themselves to society and make them­ selves socially useful. For Trilling to persuade the intellectuals to participate in his critical project, he would first have to overcome PR’s hyperradicalism. PR’s response to Trilling’s and Chase’s criticisms was ambiv­ alent. On the one hand, the editors were hardly likely to surrender their avant-garde position overnight. On the other, they were realistic enough to realise th at institutionalisation had made some revision of their beliefs imperative. As Philip Rahv - the biggest


The cultural avant-garde

realist amongst them - remarked in conversation w ith William Barrett around this time: ‘The Liberals now dominate all the cultural channels in this country. If you break completely w ith this dom inant atmosphere, you’re a dead duck.’62 Therefore it was not completely unexpected when they tried to engage Trilling and Chase in debate about their views. In April 1949 PR carried a magazine review by Irving Howe noting Chase’s comments in the Sewanee about ’Ordealism’, and rem arking on their similarity to Trilling’s earlier statem ent about art and neurosis. In w hat for PR was an uncharacteristically emollient, non-combative tone, Howe reasserted the importance of alienation as a theme in modern lit­ erature, and the value of historically grounded literary criti­ cism.63 Meanwhile the editors set about drawing Chase’s attention to Howe’s review, in the hope they might thus stim ulate a dis­ cussion. Rahv approached Trilling w ith this aim in mind, while William Phillips wrote directly to Chase, informing him he had ’stirred up a controversy’, and inviting him to ’make some reply in the pages of PR’. Phillips could not help sounding slightly aggrieved th at Chase had chosen to publicise his objections to Ordealism in one of PR’s New Critical rivals: May I say th at I, personally would have preferred to see your original remarks published in Partisan Review, for I conceive of the magazine as the place where these disagreements could be thrashed out. Nevertheless, he was grateful th at Chase had spoken out: I am glad to see some of these issues are coming out into the open, after having been muffled for so many years, and it seems to me th at our intellectual and literary life can only gain by sharp controversies around our basic beliefs.64 Chase, however, resisted PR’s advances, deciding to follow Trill­ ing’s advice th at Howe’s comments ’ought not to be answered at all in a special way’, as his ’m anner is very pleasant - I’ve always liked his polemical tone - and both you and I are but items among m any’. Besides, he and Trilling were by this point already embroiled in a PR controversy, this time w ith one of the editors, William Barrett. ’My sense of the situation’, Trilling told Chase, ’is th at we concentrate all our fire on Barrett and let the Howe thing go by completely.’65 The background to the Barrett controversy was as

Politics, Pound and patronage


follows. In the course of the previous year PR had printed two articles by Chase, ‘Dissent on Billy Budd’ and ‘The Progressive Hawthorne’, in which the Columbia professor had sought to illustrate Trilling’s thesis th at literature could be employed in criti­ cism of the liberal imagination by citing various fictional characters as typical of impulses in modem liberalism - for example, Claggart, the petty officer who destroys the ‘Handsome Sailor’ Billy Budd in Melville’s novel, represented the Progressive, fellow-travelling ‘Confidence Man’.66In the letter column of the February 1949 issue three literature professors at Smith College, Robert Gorham Davis, Newton Arvin and Daniel Aaron, protested th at Chase’s use of literature for the purpose of criticising liberalism was inappropriate, and in any case his understanding of the liberal tradition was flawed, in th at he greatly overestimated the significance of fellowtravelling Progressivism.67 In a riposte Chase restated the need for modem liberals to criticise their doctrinal inheritance, and insisted on the relevance of literature to this task.‘Let’s hope’, he wrote, ‘th at the Confidence Man of the 1940s has not turned out to be the Liberal who Has Officially Reassessed Liberalism and Found It Good.’68 And there the dispute might have rested, had William Barrett not betrayed PR’s desire to see the m atter ‘thrashed out’ by contributing a piece to the magazine’s occasional ‘Variety’ depart­ m ent entitled ‘W hat Is the “L iberar Mind?’ to the following issue. In it Barrett parodied Chase’s practice of identifying fictional characters with modem political ideologies and, widening the scope of the Smith professors’ protest, taxed Trilling for making in­ sufficiently clear w hat it was precisely he was criticising: the entire Enlightenment political tradition, or merely ‘peripheral abberations’, like the Stalinised liberalism of the 1930s?69 On this occasion, both Columbia professors rose to the challenge. Trilling wrote to Chase informing him th at he had arranged for space to answer the charges in PR: ‘Barrett is absurd, and like the Three [Smith College professors], essentially disingenuous.’70 Interest­ ingly, the editors were eager to reassure Trilling and Chase th at the controversy implied no personal hostility on their part. ‘[T]hey speak, sincerely, of their liking for you’, Trilling reported to Chase, ‘and Barrett protests th at he attacked for your own good.’71 Also, Rahv was anxious th at Trilling’s communication in reply to Barrett appear in Variety, and not in its correspondence column. T think’,


The cultural avant-garde

wrote Trilling, ‘he doesn’t w ant it to seem th at I am alienated from PR, which is understandable.’72 The editors’ tenderness for their opponents’ feelings did not diminish as the controversy ran its course, but if anything increased. After Chase’s and Trilling’s replies were printed in the June issue, and underneath them a response by Barrett, the latter wrote to Chase assuring him of his ‘feelings of good will and respect’.73 In their communications both Chase and Trilling restated their critique of the liberal imagination and accused Barrett of aestheti­ cism. The former, while acknowledging the centrality to liberalism of such Enlightenment instrum ents as democratic politics and rationalism , m aintained the importance of imaginative elements like religion and literature, and provided further examples from modem fiction to support his claims. Barrett he accused of Victorian Alexandrianism, for failing to recognise literature’s moral or politi­ cal dimension.74 Similarly, in his rejoinder, Trilling suggested th at modem liberalism had failed to incorporate a substantial body of Enlightenment doctrine, which he called ‘Romantic realism’ (and elsewhere referred to as ‘the im agination of disaster’), and proposed th at this missing element could be rediscovered in literature. He too, like Chase, charged Barrett w ith aestheticism, or ‘academi­ cism’, repeating his belief th at ‘literature in its relation to life is polemical’.75In his response, ‘Art, Aristocracy and Reason’, Barrett expressed surprise at hearing himself described as a formalist - after all, had not Chase recently attacked ‘ordealism’ for precisely the reason th at it accorded too much importance to social and political factors? Moving on, Barrett accused Trilling and Chase of concen­ trating too narrowly on the symptoms of liberalism’s malaise, and not its root causes - although he failed to give any indication of w hat he believed those causes might be. Next he pointed out th at those modem writers whose work Trilling hoped might be assimilated by liberalism were variously mystics, aristocrats and irrationalists. Still, Barrett did agree th at the ideas of the ‘CounterEnlightenment’, which Trilling had referred to as ‘Romantic real­ ism’, should receive the attention of modem liberals - thereby conceding the most im portant element of Chase’s and Trilling’s case.76 As Trilling remarked to Chase after reading Barrett’s reply: He deserves credit for the amenity of his tone, for the arom a of intelligence he steams forth, but I simply cannot see th at he says anything except ‘It’s a great deal more than

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liberalism th at we m ust deal w ith.' To which the only answer is, Yes, of course, but where shall we start if not there? So I suppose we have won, beating Barrett’s tactical advantage of having the last and apparently synthesising word, although I think th at m any readers will see through th at fortuity. I don’t know w hat we have won, probably nothing; but it’s obvious th at we had to fight.77 Barrett’s response to Chase and Trilling revealed PR’s editors to be in a state of profound ideological uncertainty. Having realised the hopelessness of their avant-garde programme, they were prepared to rethink their intellectual Identity. Lionel Trilling’s proposals for a constructive criticism of liberalism were therefore bound to interest them, particularly so as they involved a realistic recognition of the New York Intellectuals’ new institutional location. For a PR controversy the exchange of views between Barrett, Chase and Trilling was remarkably free of personal ran­ cour. More striking still was Barrett’s failure to register any substantial objections to his opponents’ case. His main quarrel with Trilling and Chase was not th at they were too sympathetic towards liberalism, but th at they had been too critical. Indeed, it could be argued th at Barrett, by insisting th at Trilling draw a distinction between two kinds of liberalism - the m ainstream and ’peripheral aberations’ like Progressivism - was implicitly discarding PR’s notion of a liberal, totalitarian monolith, and preparing the ground for himself and his colleagues to reattach themselves to the domi­ nant political culture. If so, such a reattachm ent did not occur, at least not in 1949. The editors’ affiliation w ith Trilling’s critical project was at best wavering and hesitant. They were not yet ready to give up their privileged status as an avant-garde, or surrender their purchase on the adversarial tradition. Hence the way was open for the rather pathetic spectacle of PR in the 1950s.

Notes 1 ‘A French Number’, editorial. Partisan Review 13 (1946): 138. 2 Philip Rahv, ’On the Decline of Naturalism’, Partisan Review 9 (1942): 484. 3 Isaac Rosenfeld, ‘In and Out of the War’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 256.


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4 Martin Greenberg. ‘Poet And/Or Commissar', Partisan Review 13 (1946) : 259. 5 See Alan Wald. The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 227-8. 6 See Wald, New York Intellectuals 229-30. 7 Philip Rahv, ‘Testament of a Homeless Radical’. Partisan Review 12 (1945): 398; Philip Rahv, 'The Unfuture of Utopia’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 744-7; William Barrett, The Truants: Adventures Among the Intel­ lectuals (New York: Doubleday, 1982) 206. 8 Isaac Rosenfeld, ‘The Colony', Partisan Review 12 (1945): 5-40. 9 Lionel Trilling, ‘Of This Time, Of That Place’, Partisan Review 10 (1943): 72-81, 84-105; Lionel Trilling, ‘The Other Margaret’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 481-501. See Wald. New York Intellectuals 231-9. 10 James T. Farrell, ‘A Comment on Literature and Morality: A Crucial Question of Our Time’, New International 12 (1946): 143-5; Irving Howe, ‘James T. Farrell: The Critic Calcified’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 544-52. 11 Philip Rahv, letter to Lionel Trilling, 30 August 1947, Lionel Trill­ ing Papers, Butler Library, Columbia; Lionel Trilling, The Middle of the Journey (New York: Avon, 1947). 12 According to Rahv. Arthur Koestler had a regrettable tendency towards epigrammatic glibness. Similarly, Irving Howe reckoned that Vic­ tor Serge’s The Long Dusk was too journalistic to be entirely satisfactory as a work of fiction. Rahv, ‘Testament’ 399; Irving Howe, ‘Europe’s Night’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 93-5. 13 Rahv, ‘Naturalism’ 484. 14 David T. Bazelon, ‘The Hammer and the Quill’, Partisan Review 14 (1947) : 542; Irving Howe. ‘The Sentimental Fellow-Traveller’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 1125-9; Howe. ‘Farrell’. 15 Philip Rahv, 'Concerning Tolstoy’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 42032. 16 Rahv. ‘Tolstoy’ 432. 17 See Gyorgy Lukács, Studies in European Realism (New York: Univer­ sal Library, 1964) and The Historical Novel (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962). For synoptic reviews of Lukács’ thought, see Terry Eagleton, Marxism and literary Criticism (London: Methuen, 1976) 27-31 and Eugene Lunn, Marxism and Modernism: An Historical Study of Lukács, Brecht, Benjamin and Adorno (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982) 78-85. 18 See Raymond Williams’ Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) 121-7. According to Williams, the ‘residual, by definition, has been effectively formed in the past, but is still active in the cultural process, not only as and often not at all as an element of the past,

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but as an effective element of the present. Thus certain experiences, mean­ ings, and values which cannot be expressed or substantially verified in terms of the dominant culture, are nevertheless lived and practiced on the basis of the residue. . . of some previous social or cultural institution or formation.’ Williams, Marxism and Literature 122. 19 See Lunn, Marxism and Modernism 89-90. 20 Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists (London: Verso. 1989) 62, 55. 21 Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983) 40. 22 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (Lon­ don: Seeker, 1983) 152. 23 Quoted in Howe, Margin 153. 24 Quoted in William Barrett, ’A Prize for Ezra Pound’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 344. 25 Eileen Simpson, Poets in Their Youth: A Memoir (London: Faber, 1982) 196-7. 26 In ‘Homage to Twelve Judges: An Editorial’, printed in the winter 1949 issue of Politics, Macdonald expressed his admiration for the Bollingen Jury’s statement, defending the Pound award in the following terms: ‘This seems to me the best political statement made in this country for some time, Just as the action of the Fellows in awarding the 1948 Bollingen Prize to Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos is the brightest political act in a dark period.’ After reading this editorial, Allen Tate wrote to Macdonald congratulating and thanking him. In a reply to Tate Macdonald remarked that his comments appeared ‘to have pleased most readers, except for Pound himself, who scrawled a note so vituperative and hot-tempered that I took a great personal liking to him. He is of the opinion that if an ape could use a typewriter, he would write the way I do.’ Dwight Mac­ donald, Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (New York: Farrar, 1957) 215; Allen Tate, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 10 April 1949, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Allen Tate, 3 May 1949, Macdconald Papers. 27 Howe, Margin 152. 28 Delmore Schwartz, letter to Ezra Pound, 5 March 1939, in Letters ofDelmore Schwartz, ed. Robert Phillips (Princeton: Ontario Review Press, 1984) 68. 29 Delmore Schwartz, letter to R. P. Blackmur, n.d. [probably 3 Nov­ ember 1945], in ed. Phillips, Letters 221. 30 Delmore Schwartz, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 12 November 1945, Delmore Schwartz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale. 31 Howe, Margin 152.


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32 James Atlas, Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet (New York: Farrar, 1977) 290. 33 Reed Whlttemore, Little Magazines (Minneapolis: Minnesota Uni­ versity Press, 1963) 19. 34 Howe, Margin 152. 35 Barrett. ‘A Prize’ 347. 36 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Allen Tate, 3 May 1949, Macdonald Papers. 37 Felix Glovanelll, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 17 April 1949, Mac­ donald Papers. 38 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 17 April 1949, Richard Chase Papers, Butler Library, Columbia. 39 Allen Tate, ’The Question of the Pound Award’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 520. 40 Howe, Margin 155. 41 See Frederick Morgan, *A Note on Ezra Pound’, Hudson Review 4 (1951): 158. 42 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 17 April 1949, Chase Pa­ pers. 43 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 17 April 1949, Chase Pa­ pers. 44 Irving Howe, ’The Question of the Pound Award’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 516-17; Clement Greenberg, ’The Question of the Pound Award’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 516. 45 Karl Shapiro, ‘The Question of the Pound Award’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 518-19. 46 Robert Gorham Davis, ‘The Question of the Pound Award’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 513. 47 William Barrett, ‘Further Comment’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 521. 48 Philip Rahv, ‘Twilight of the Thirties’, Partisan Review 6.4 (1939): 4-5. 49 William Phillips, ‘Eliot and Notions of Culture: A Discussion’, Par­ tisan Review 11 (1944): 309. 50 Arthur Koestler, ‘The Intelligentsia’, Partisan Review 11 (1944): 276-7. 51 Delmore Schwartz, ‘A Man in His Time’, Partisan Review 11 (1944): 349. 52 Rahv, ‘Testament* 400. 53 William Barrett, ‘The Resistance’, Partisan Revtew 13 (1946): 487. 54 J. F. Wolpert, ‘Notes on the American Intelligentsia’, Partisan Re­ view 14 (1947): 478.

N otes

10 7

55 Clement Greenberg, 'The State of American Writing, 1948: A Sym­ posium’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 876. 56 Lionel Trilling, ‘The State of American Writing, 1948: A Sympo­ sium’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 889, 893, 888. 57 Lionel Trilling, ‘A Note on Art and Neurosis’, Partisan Review 12 (1945): 41-8. 58 Quoted in Irving Howe, ‘Magazine Chronicle’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 416. 59 Howe, 'Magazine Chronicle’ 416. 60 Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (London: Seeker, 1951) xlii. 61 Trilling, Liberal Imagination xv. 62 Barrett, The Truants 195. 63 Howe, ‘Magazine Chronicle’ 416-27. 64 William Phillips, letter to Richard Chase, 9 March 1949, Chase Papers. 65 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 16 March 1949, Chase Papers. 66 Richard Chase. 'Dissent on Billy Budd’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 1212-18; Richard Chase, ‘The Progressive Hawthorne’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 96-100. 67 Newton Arvin, Robert Gorham Davis, and Daniel Aaron, letter, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 221-2. 68 Richard Chase, letter, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 223. 69 William Barrett, ‘What is the “Liberar Mind?’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 331-6, 336. 70 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase. 7 March n.y. [probably 1949], Chase Papers. 71 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 16 March 1949, Chase Papers. 72 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 21 March n.y. [probably 1949], Chase Papers. 73 William Barrett, letter to Richard Chase, 1 June n.y. [probably 1949], Chase Papers. 74 Richard Chase, ‘liberalism and Literature’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 649-52. 75 Lionel Trilling, ‘A Rejoinder to Mr Barrett’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 653-8. 76 William Barrett, ‘Art, Aristocracy and Reason’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 659-65. 77 Lionel Trilling, letter to Richard Chase, 11 June 1949, Chase Papers.

C h ap ter 4

Partisan R eview in the 1 9 5 0 s : the institutionalisation of the avant-garde During the 1950s Partisan Review succumbed to a process of institu­ tionalisation which culminated in its absorption by Rutgers Univer­ sity in 1963. It should be stressed th at this was not a single, linear development, but rather unfolded on several different institutional fronts, at varying speeds: there were many obstacles in the way of a harmonious partnership between the editors and institutions, not least of which was the formers’ determination not to violate the doctrine of independence to which they had long been pledged, or jeopardise their magazine’s role as avant-garde institution. Never­ theless, the 1950s did witness a series of encounters between PR and institutions th at ended with the magazine surrendering its independence. At the same time that the reserves of individual pat­ ronage which previously had enabled it to m aintain at least a semb­ lance of avant-garde detachment dried up, so institutions began to discover a number of hitherto unsuspected uses for it. Meanwhile the editors found it increasingly difficult to disregard the considerable career opportunities that were opening up to them during these years. PR’s institutionalisation was conducted against a background of growing dissatisfaction in literary circles with its leadership of the cultural avant-garde. Towards the end of the 1950s complaints about the magazine reached a crescendo, and a group of young writers that included the Beats, Black M ountain and New York School poets began creating their own avant-garde institutions. I It was during the late 1940s th at opposition to PR first emerged on a significant scale. Intellectuals to its political left, mainly

The institutionalisation o f the avant-garde


Trotskyists, accused it of abandoning radicalism w ith unseemly haste and war-mongering w ith the Soviet Union, of ‘growing moral snobbery’ and ‘Stalinophobia’ ('a disease common among intellec­ tuals who were once radicals; its major symptom is th at regular tired feeling’).1 The editors’ theory of the condition of the modem w riter was interpreted as evidence of political despair, and characterised as ’a dividend of whining, demoralised loss’ carried ’to the limit of a manic extreme’.2 In a prolonged, often incisive, attack, Milton Howard (a former editor of the magazine from the days of the John Reed Clubs) charged Phillips and Rahv w ith con­ cealing a reactionary political position behind a facade of pseudo­ radicalism. Their professed aim of achieving a synthesis of culture and politics had, he alleged, eventuated in a gross distortion of both Marxism and Modernism. Having detached the concept of alienation from Marxism they had then isolated a single element of the Modernist tradition, th at part which accentuated the futility and anguish of modem life, and discarded the rest. Hence, claimed Howard, their famous definition of the modem sensibility effectively consisted of debased Marxist theory and a de-clawed Modernist aesthetic.3 The editors were not unduly bothered by hostile comment about their politics: PR had not yet exhausted the reserves of political cachet and moral prestige it had built up following its stand against the Stalinists in 1937, and in any case still possessed, despite its growing political quietism, a sort of radical aura, the result of a combination of factors, including the resonance of its political history, its continued use of the polemical devices of the sectarian 1930s, even the elements of Russian Constructivist art in its cover design. Far more worrying were signs of a new mood of opposition to the magazine in literary circles, a growing tendency to challenge its cultural authority. At first this reaction was limited to m urm urs in private correspondence and a few little magazines. In 1948 however it assumed a more alarm ing form, when three young writers, Joseph Bennett, Frederick Morgan and William Arrowsmith, founded a new literary journal in New York, called the Hudson Review, ’partly in reaction against w hat its edi­ tors found in the glib and all-too-clever style of the Partisan Review'.4 Although the Hudson's young editors published primarily New England and Southern critics, their literary values and con­ cerns were not unlike those of the New York Intellectuals. The


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objections which they and others raised against PR were of a quite specific nature. To begin with, it was felt th at PR was compromised by its asso­ ciation w ith a particular literary group. *Partisan itself is too much of a movement’, complained Randall Jarrell. T he editors will print bad things by “our” people th at they wouldn’t consider from out­ siders.’5 Worse still, regular contributors had a habit of constantly mentioning each other’s names, so th at PR often resembled nothing so m uch as ‘a m utual adm iration society’.6 This tendency was taken to extreme lengths in the fiction which appeared in the maga­ zine. PR short stories were, Seymour Krim reckoned, ’little more than expansions of M Did you hear th at So-and-So . . . ? ” involving Greenwich Village personalities’.7 Then there was the more subtle and insidious kind of self-promotion detectable in m uch of the literary criticism published by the magazine. The editors’ dismal conception of the condition of the modern artist, suspected William Arrowsmith of the Hudson, was generalised from elements of the New York Intellectuals’ peculiar personal experience. First they had elevated alienation, anxiety and neurosis to the level of a definition of high art. Then they had validated this definition by training their critical attention exclusively on those literary texts which most obviously fitted it. In short, PR was constantly attem pt­ ing to privilege the New York Intellectuals’ critical perspective.6 Another concern was the immense am ount of cultural power th at the magazine had acquired. The editors, it was felt, were as­ piring to the status of a cultural establishment, foisting the values and concerns of a small intellectual community onto the entire nation, and seeking to control channels of international cultural communication as well. Several commentators drew comparisons between PR and Time magazine, observing how both New Yorkbased publications shaped national cultural values and concerns, highbrow and middlebrow respectively, in particular determining American perceptions of intellectual life abroad. Eric Lee, for example, a young devotee of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, suggested th at the editors had exactly the same attitude towards French Existentialism as Henry Luce: ’they both attem pt to assimi­ late the philosophy . . . neatly catalogue, [and] thus dispose of, the problem’.9 Nor was Lee alone in his dissatisfaction w ith PR’s cover­ age of European intellectual affairs. William Arrowsmith believed th at ’Europe has been cast more in the mould of Partisan Review

The institutionalisation o f the avant-garde


than vice versa, th at the Europe we see in Partisan Review is a distorted m irror of a m arginal group of American bohem ians'.10 If, as was alleged, PR had mislead its American audience about European cultural life, then there was little to prevent it from doing the same in reverse, th at is misrepresent America to Europe. Concerns on this score were fuelled by the editors' policy of foster­ ing close links w ith European publications like Cyril Connolly’s Horizon. In 1947 a special travelogue edition of th at magazine featured articles on the literary situation in America by William Barrett and William Phillips.11 W riting in the Hudson, Frederick Morgan protested th at all of PR’s editors’ assertions about the state of American w riting were extrapolated from their own, atypical, personal experience. The country described by Barrett and Phillips was not 'the America of Americans’; rather it was the tiny world of a group of alienated im m igrant intellectuals w rit large.12 Dis­ approval of the special relationship between PR and Horizon was not confined to one side of the Atlantic. After hearing T. S. Eliot describe PR as ’the Horizon of New York', and then learning that Cyril Connolly had arranged for the publication of a British edition of the American magazine, W yndham Lewis began to suspect an international conspiracy: My guess is th at noticing the Horizon of London is in extremis, the Horizon of New York thought it could not allow a horizontal vacuum to come into existence, following the demise of its London opposite num ber.13 A constant motif in attacks on PR was the charge th at its editors’ fondness for elaborate critical theories th at stressed the artist’s suf­ fering and hopelessness was stifling creative writing, the production of original fiction and poetry. Delmore Schwartz and Mary McCarthy, two close associates of the magazine who wrote creatively, were often mentioned in this connection. The publisher James Laughlin reckoned th at the dim unition of Schwartz’s poetic output during the 1950s could be attributed to the ’sterile’ atmos­ phere around PR. ’Isn’t it really time for the whole PR crowd to disappear?’ he asked Schwartz. ’It strikes me all as a kind of hardening of the arteries. I don’t know w hat exactly is to replace it, but as long as Philip [Rahv] keeps on flogging th at old horse the wagon is not going to deliver the milk.’14 Throughout her ca­ reer McCarthy was dogged by criticism th at her fiction, for all its


The cultural avant-garde

intellectual sophistication, lacked imaginative flair. Seymour Krim blamed this deficiency on the influence of PR. McCarthy, he be­ lieved, was representative of a ‘school of fiction-writers which Parti­ san Review has, by its temper, if not its express wish, encouraged and whose self-conscious, highly intellectualised work has regu­ larly appeared in th at magazine’.15 In William Arrowsmith’s view, young American writers should ignore the clamouring of these ’cultural bolsheviks’ and invent their own literary standards.16 Remarks about ’sterility’ were often accompanied by accusations of ‘snobbishness’. The magazine’s practice of constructing its read­ ers as it they were New York Intellectuals has already been noted. Inevitably, the editors risked alienating those readers who already possessed a strong intellectual Identity of their own. The Tennes­ see-born poet Randall Jarrell was angered by the assumption that, as a reader of and contributor to PR, he necessarily shared ‘the point of view of someone who’s semi-Marxist, fairly avant-garde, reasonably Bohemian, anti-bourgeois, cosmopolitan, anti-Stalinist, lives in New York, likes Mondrian etc., etc.’ Jarrell reckoned th at the most elitist of PR’s attitudes was its implicit belief that: New York is the Paris of America, th at the United States is Europe all over again, a backward Europe: in fact, it’s barely an American magazine, and always sinks w ith a sigh of joy into the friendly harbor of Sartre, Camus, Silone, the great European w riters.17 Stephen Spender, like Jarrell a distinguished poet who travelled with yet never belonged to the New York Intellectual community, also turned down the editors’ implicit invitation to join PR in its m arginal seclusion: Partisan Review, which has published the most interesting stories and articles appearing in America over a num ber of years, suffers also from th at sense of limitations which makes one feel th at to read it is to belong to a special group outside of the rest of America.18 Jarrell and Spender admired PR yet resisted many of its cultural assumptions. Similarly, several readers shared the editors’ literary tastes but not their political views. The point at issue was not the place of politics in a literary magazine - PR’s critics were careful to avoid the suggestion th at the editors should exclude politics from

The institutionalisation o f the avant-garde


their range of concerns - but rather the particular substance and style of PR’s political contents. Both Malcolm Cowley and Mark Schorer devoted considerable space in otherwise laudatory reviews of PR to criticism of the ’shrillness’, ’inflexibility’ and ’imaginative poverty’ of the editors’ politics.19 W hen the editors printed a vituperative riposte to Schorer’s piece in PR,20 insisting th at their political convictions flowed directly from their cultural allegiances, Eric Bentley rushed to Schorer’s defence, using a review essay in the Kenyon Review as a platform from which to launch an attack on PR’s ‘tiresome and cheap’ anti-Stalinist tirades: There are many readers besides Mr Schorer who like Partisan ‘except for its politics’, just as Partisan likes most of the great modem writers . . . ‘except for their politics’. It is in spite of the big political talk, and in spite of the bad m anners and ugly cruelties th at m ark its controversies, th at Partisan Review earns our adm iration.21 These protests about PR’s cultural elitism and political dogmatism sounded a common theme: a rejection of the editors’ constant insinuation that, in order fully to comprehend modem literature, one had to share all their values and concerns. II PR and the institutions - the foundations, the state, the publishing industry and the universities - typically regarded each other with ambivalence. From an institutional point of view, the magazine possessed several uses, arising chiefly from its dual allegiance to Modernist culture and anti-Communist politics. However, it also had characteristics and associations (its disdainful attitude towards American ‘mass’ culture, and its radical past, for example) which the institutions found disconcerting. For their part, PR’s editors were extremely jealous of their editorial independence, and gener­ ally resentful of institutional encroachm ents on avant-garde terri­ tory. At the same time, they were keenly aware of the m aterial benefits which cooperation w ith the institutions m ight bring their magazine and themselves. In April 1944 Philip Rahv, learning of a grant the Rockefeller Foundation had recently made to the Kenyon Review, sent Rocke­ feller representative R. P. Blackmur details of PR’s finances,


The cultural avant-garde

describing the hardships he and his colleagues had suffered as a result of the magazine's chronic deficits.22 The hint was not taken. Nine m onths afterwards, Delmore Schwartz, w riting to fellow-poet John Berryman, who was a colleague of Blackmur’s at Princeton, relayed a plaintive message from Phillips and Rahv: 'PR has heard of no money . . . except the money which is given to other re­ views.’23 By now, Schwartz had formed the impression th at the Rockefeller was definitely prejudiced against PR, and he advised his friend William Barrett to omit mention of his association with the magazine when applying for a personal Rockefeller grant.24 In 1946 the Rockefeller surveyed the opinions of leading literary critics concerning little magazines, in preparation for a programme of literary grants.2S The majority of replies to this survey singled out PR as particulary worthy of financial support.26 Despite this overwhelming endorsement, PR was not among the magazines selected for assistance by the Rockefeller in 1947. Undeterred, the editors continued to try their luck w ith the foundations. In 1951, for example, William Phillips asked Lionel Trilling to petition the Rockefeller on the magazine's behalf.27 (To no avail, judging by Philip Rahv’s rem ark to Allen Tate the following year, th at 'the Foundations leave us strictly alone’.28) Later in the 1950s, the foundations appeared to revise their opinion of PR. The Ford bought up copies of the magazine in order to massage its sales revenue, and in 1956 the Rockefeller granted it $4,000 a year for three years, to be disposed of in literary fellowships to valued con­ tributors.29 Still, these moves came rather late in the day, and did not dispel the impression th at PR had been deliberately neglected. Of course it was not unusual for foundations to turn down requests for sponsorship from little magazines. However, they had been prepared to make exceptions in the cases of John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review and Allen Tate’s Sewanee Review. Why not PR as well? The Kenyon and the Sewanee were affiliated w ith institutions (Kenyon College and the University of the South, respectively), and possessed obvious institutional (academic) utility. The same could not be said of PR. Furtherm ore, whereas the organs of the New Critics lacked political associations, PR had a history of radical activism. Foundations depended for their very existence on govern­ m ent fiat - federal rulings of tax exemption, to be exact - and consequently were reluctant to become involved w ith any magazine

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w ith the odour of political radicalism clinging to it. This, at least, was how PR's editors chose to interpret the foundations’ inaction. Delmore Schwartz confronted R. P. Blackmur in a Princeton res­ tau ran t and noisily insisted th at the reasons behind the Rocke­ feller’s rejection of PR’s applications for grants were political.30 W hen making out a request for foundation support, William Phillips deemed it prudent to underplay the extent of PR’s connec­ tion w ith diehard radical Dwight Macdonald.31 There was perhaps an element of self-dramatisation in all this. Nonetheless, there can be little doubt th at PR, despite its vehement anti-Stalinism, was widely perceived as being politically disreputable. For example, Randall Jarrell had his appointment to the post of Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress temporarily blocked when he was linked w ith various ’pinko publications’, among them PR.32 This is less surprising when one considers that, even after the editors’ aban­ donm ent of a revolutionary political programme, much of their cultural criticism still bore traces of the radical concerns of the 1930s, insofar as they continued to deploy Marxist concepts and train their attention on ’political’ literary texts. In contrast, the New Criticism, underpinned as it was by the conservative ideology of the Agrarian movement of the 1920s, systematically ignored the historical and social dimensions of literature, favouring instead a rigorously formalist critical strategy. It does indeed seem quite likely th at such considerations affected foundation policy at an opera­ tional level, by subtly influencing the personal opinions of officers and trustees. The foundations’ reluctance to patronise PR was increased by a host of social and ethnic factors, which m ight best be summarised as the magazine’s ’unAmericanness’. W hen R. P. Blackmur was pressed by Delmore Schwartz to specify a reason for the Rocke­ feller’s neglect of PR, he revealingly mentioned the negativism of the magazine’s book reviews.33 PR’s characteristic idiom reflected the social and ethnic milieu in which it was produced, in th at it combined elements of Russian intellectualisai and ghetto uncouth­ ness, ‘m andarin elegance and street outcry’.34 As such, it m ust have sounded distinctly alien and perhaps a little threatening to foundation personnel, most of whom hailed from elite American families and universities (John Marshall, associate director of the Rockefeller’s Humanities Division, had attended Harvard), and were therefore accustomed to more genteel, polite modes of


The cultural avant-garde

intellectual discourse. Presumably this Is w hat Philip Rahv m eant when he opined th at PR was ‘much too lively’ for the foundations.35 This was another area in which the magazines of the New Critics were better equipped to profit from foundation patronage than PR. The New Criticism was an impeccably native American movement, and a ‘respectable’ one at that. John Crowe Ransom dressed and spoke like an ante-bellum Southern gentleman; Philip Rahv never shed his Ukrainian accent and, according to Delmore Schwartz, looked ‘like the Paris Commune’.36 During the 1950s the little magazine patronage policy of the American government was very similar to th at of the foundations. Government officers were only interested in magazines which could be made to serve some official purpose. When they did undertake to patronise a magazine, they concealed their identity, appreciating th at institutional patronage in general, and official patronage in particular, were frowned upon by literary intellectuals. Finally, if a suitably useful magazine did not already exist, they were quite prepared to ‘invent’ one themselves. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s the CIA covertly subsidised, via ‘dummy’ foundations and an ostensibly independent organisation of western and Asian intellectuals called the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an international programme of magazine publishing designed to com­ bat the influence of anti-American Soviet propaganda. Among the publications which secretly received US government patronage in this fashion were such journals of international distinction as the London-based monthly Encounter.37 Partisan Review’s role in the Cultural Cold W ar has been the source of some controversy. Indeed, there has even been specul­ ation th at the magazine was among those targeted for covert fund­ ing by the CIA.38 At first glance there would seem to be grounds for such speculation. PR was, after all, one of the leading organs of anti-Communist American intellectuals, and therefore presum­ ably ‘of use’ to the CIA in its ideological w ar w ith the Soviets. More appealing still was the considerable cultural authority the magazine commanded abroad, amongst both European and Asian intellectu­ als. As Sidney Hook, a member of the CCF’s Executive Committee explained, PR was ‘invaluable as a vital and impressive expression of American cultural life; and . . . extremely im portant in the pre­ sent situation’.39 Hence the CCF was prepared to assist w ith the distribution of copies of the magazine to overseas libraries.40 For

The institutionalisation o f the avant-garde


their part PR’s editors appear to have been sympathetic w ith the aims of the CCF, at least judging by the fact th at one of them, William Phillips, was an active member of the international Con­ gress’ American affiliate, the American Committee for Cultural Freedom (ACCF).41 Finally, there is the following feature of PR’s publishing history to consider. In 1958 the ACCF became the maga­ zine’s official publisher, an arrangem ent which lasted for about ten years.42 As a publication of one of the national affiliates of the CCF, PR’s organisational status was no different from th at of other maga­ zines which received secret assistance from the CIA. Encounter, for example, was published by the British affiliate of the CCF, the British Committee for Cultural Freedom. However, against this purely circum stantial evidence one has to weigh the following considerations. To begin with, it would be a mistake to assume th at PR’s editors supported the American Cul­ tural Cold W ar effort wholeheartedly. The fact th at in the years after the Second World W ar their anti-Communist political con­ victions had coincided w ith those of US foreign policy makers was largely fortuitous. As im m igrant ex-radicals, Phillips and Rahv naturally tended to be suspicious of the intentions and actions of government officers. This habitual m istrust can hardly have di­ minished when, early in the 1950s, they were harassed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and summoned to appear before a congressional committee investigating Communist subver­ sion.43 Perhaps this partly explains why, when details of the CIA’s secret subsidies of Encounter were publicly disclosed in 1967, they expressly condemned covert government patronage of intellectual activities. Phillips printed a statem ent protesting the CIA’s oper­ ations in PR, while elsewhere Rahv compared those magazine editors who had knowingly received CIA money w ith the Stalinist fellow-travellers of the 1930s.44 Later, in his memoirs, Phillips elaborated his objections to secret subsidies. First of all, he argued, they were tactically misconceived: intellectual discourse had a way of evolving organically, and could not be engineered by official organisations and magazines. Second, they were objectionable on ethical grounds, in th at they constituted an intolerable infringe­ m ent of intellectual freedom. Magazines in receipt of such subsidies were plainly subject to external controls, the most obvious being th at their editors were appointed by the CCF.4S Phillips’ and Rahv’s m istrust of the CCF was reciprocated. Neither


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editor was invited to the organisation's founding conference in 1950. In fact Phillips had to wait until 1960 before receiving his first invitation to a Congress function (a conference in Berlin, which he disrupted by publicly rowing w ith Edward Shils).46 As he remarked later: 'Obviously neither Rahv nor I was considered personally or politically reliable enough to participate in the form­ ation of an organisation which at some point acquired a secret connection w ith the CIA.’47 Inevitably the Congress’ wariness of Phillips and Rahv coloured its view of PR. Like other institutional patrons, the CCF preferred dealing w ith magazines which it had invented, and whose editors it had appointed. As a rule it encour­ aged the magazines it published to refrain from overtly political comment and concentrate instead on celebrating the cultural ac­ complishments of the capitalist democracies.48 Infuriatingly, PR insisted on doing the opposite, printing anti-Soviet polemics along­ side articles deploring the state of American 'm ass’ culture. More­ over, the simple fact th at PR was published in the US would have counted against it in the eyes of CCF officers, who were concerned with winning the hearts and minds of intellectuals in Europe, Asia or Africa, not America. In addition, the CIA was prevented by law from conducting covert operations in the US, so the CCF was unable to disburse secret subsidies to PR, at least not legally. Most im portant, the fact th at PR was for a time published by the ACCF does not by itself prove th at the magazine was receiving CIA money. To show th at it was, one would have first to dem onstrate th at the ACCF funded as well as published it, and second th at the ACCF was itself subsidised by the CIA. This second question has been the occasion of heated disagreement ever since the 1960s, and the record is far from clear.49 W hat is clear is th at PR was not funded on a regular basis by the ACCF. Although some money might occasionally have percolated to the magazine from the organisation, the arrangem ent between them was principally an ‘accommodation’ or 'bookkeeping device’, a ploy by the editors to retain their tax exempt status.50 Furtherm ore, there is no evidence th at PR’s editorial policy changed as a result of its connection with the ACCF. Unlike other magazines published under the aegis of the CCF, PR was not vulnerable to such controls as the external appointment of editors. Also, the ACCF differed from other national affiliates in th at it was a large, energetic organisation which en­ joyed a considerable degree of independence from the international

The institutionalisation o f the avant-garde


Congress, so m uch so in fact th at it often challenged CCF policy directives.51 In contrast, the British Society for Cultural Freedom was a m inute body which practically existed only to administer Encounter's budget.52 The ACCF’s autonomy of its parent organi­ sation would have had the effect of guaranteeing PR’s freedom from outside interference. Not only that, the interests of the Ameri­ can Committee and the magazine's editors were virtually identical: William Phillips identified entirely with the aims of the ACCF, and as one of its officers had an im portant say in shaping its policies. That said, PR retained its characteristic recalcitrance towards authority even where the ACCF was concerned.53 Perhaps the most conclusive piece of evidence th at PR was unaffected by its associa­ tion w ith the CCF was its continuing popularity w ith foreign intel­ lectuals, who were notoriously unresponsive to officially sponsored Cultural Cold W ar ventures. At the same time th at it was being mobilised by the state for the Cultural Cold War, the American literary avant-garde was also being commodified by the publishing industry. Publishers did not share US government officials' qualms about PR’s usefulness. As far as they were concerned, it suited their purposes perfectly. First, the mere fact of its existence testified to the continuing survival of an avant-garde. Second, it served as a kind of map of European Modernism and recent American experimental literature, areas which could be treacherous even at the best of times. Third, and most importantly, it was a 'showcase' where publishers could ‘shop’ for talented young authors.54 Irving Howe recalls how, during the 1950s, PR could 'hoist reputations, push a young w riter into prominence’.55 According to Norman Podhoretz, no young novelist, w hether successful elsewhere or not, could feel secure about his status as a serious w riter until he had been favorably reviewed, or better still published, in Partisan Review.56 It was for these reasons th at the publishing industry, while not necessarily ready to patronise PR, was more than willing to use it. Paradoxically, as PR’s prestige and reputation grew, its authority as an avant-garde institution began to decline. Previously the magazine had provided a refuge for marginalised and alienated literary intellectuals. Now th at ‘the intellectuals were in’ (a favour­ ite saying of Philip Rahv’s),57 it was in danger of becoming little


The cultural avant-garde

more than an ancillary of the culture Industries, a publishers’ talent scout, as it were. PR’s editors were well aw are of this contradiction, and struggled to preserve their magazine’s avant-garde authentic­ ity. Hence they had to: suffer the bitter pain of watching others gorge themselves on the fruits which they had planted and nourished, while they continued to live on meager rations indeed.58 Nevertheless, they remained highly ambitious, both for their m aga­ zine and for themselves - they did, after all, hail from backgrounds which bequeathed a desire to assimilate to and succeed in American society - and were therefore not altogether impervious to the trap­ pings of conventional success. The difficulty of reconciling these contradictory impulses caused them not a little anxiety. No other New York Intellectual had a greater personal stake in the doctrine of independence than Philip Rahv. During the 1930s he had been the most ardent of revolutionary vanguardists; after­ wards the most dedicated of cultural avant-gardists. Throughout this period he had made it is his business to give institutionally unaffiliated intellectuals a ’home’, a ’sanctuary’, in the shape of the Partisan Review.59 Naturally, therefore, he was opposed to any move by the Intellectual community in the direction of the instit­ utions. Besides offending his belief in the sacredness of inde­ pendence, such a move also threatened to rob PR of its institutional function as an avant-garde community centre - and PR ‘was an extension of his personality - one m ight almost say, of his body’.60 Nevertheless, Rahv’s acquaintances remember him as being an extraordinarily ambitious m an. Mark Krupnick, for example, suspects th at although ‘his cultural style was [that of] a nineteenth-century Russian intellectual. . . his social aspirations were as American as a Dreiser hero’s’.61 In this respect Rahv personified the contradiction which shaped the history of the New York Intellectual community, th at is the conflict between the Intel­ lectuals’ assimilationist impulses and their self-imposed obligation to remain detached from American society. Indeed, Rahv is often portrayed in memoirs by New York Intellectuals as an archetypal figure, embodying the dilemma of an avant-garde as it underw ent institutionalisation.63 According to William Phillips, he ’was a sym­ bolic figure, an insider and an outsider at the same time’.63 Rahv’s relations w ith the publishing industry were paradigmatic

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of this contradiction. During the 1950s he became a sort of broker or interm ediary for New York publishing houses engaged in the marketing of experimental or ‘highbrow’ literary production. Among the writers he introduced to Dial Press in this role were Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell and Allen Tate.64 He appears to have relished and excelled at the business of literary reputation-m aking and fashion-setting. While carefully cultivating Saul Bellow, for instance, he deliberately neglected a less successful Chicagoan w riter of Bellow’s generation, Isaac Rosenfeld.65His letters to Lowell and Tate reveal a fascination w ith and an intricate knowledge of the workings of the publishing industiy. Yet despite his fondness for literary gossip and m achination, Rahv evidently entertained misgivings about w hat he described as ‘commercialised letters’.66 Judging by the abruptness w ith which he term inated his associa­ tion w ith Criterion Books, he felt little personal affection for the publishers who employed him .67 After surveying the literary scene in 1953, he commented: [New York] is overrun by publishers and their assistants, all drearily searching for the best sellers. The old time literary life - w ith its proud autonomy, absorbing gossip, and keen expression of personality - now belongs to the historical past.68 Although he moved in the most powerful of American literary circles, Rahv never fully assimilated to the dom inant gentile cul­ ture. His ‘awkwardness and his detachm ent from his body’ re­ minded William Phillips of his im m igrant father. Delmore Schwartz nicknamed him ‘Philip Slav’.69 Despite the unparalleled success of his literary career, Rahv remained in many ways the most m arginal of the New York Intellectuals. It would seem reasonable to assume th at PR’s editors had few or no dealings w ith academe during this period. Their magazine performed the functions of an intellectual institution and was there­ fore in a relationship of more than implied competition w ith the universities. It also printed num erous articles which depicted pro­ fessors as political dupes or genteel snobs. It therefore comes as something of a surprise to discover th at all of PR’s editors had connections, of one sort or another, with universities. Phillips was an instructor at New York University before he edited PR; in 1942 he contemplated quitting the magazine for a post at H arvard.70


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Two years later he was taken on by Columbia for the summer session. Judging by a rem ark contained in a letter from Rahv to former editor F. W. Dupee, Phillips was enormously gratified, not to say relieved, when he learned of his appointment: ‘Did you hear of William’s resurrection . . . ? I have no doubt th at this event will do no end of good to his ego. Miracles will happen!’71 Delmore Schwartz had a dizzying variety of academic jobs. Lastly, William Barrett, before and after his spell on PR, was a philosophy professor. In addition to these personal professional ties, PR had informal connections with the English Departments of most of the leading universities, most notably Columbia. The ambiguity and complexity of PR’s relationship w ith the uni­ versities are illustrated most clearly in the career of Philip Rahv. As a result of his disrupted and peripatetic childhood, Rahv had hardly any formal education at all.72 He was an autodidact, and proud of the fact. According to one acquaintance, he regarded American universities ’as just glorified highschools’.73 As the avant-garde intellectual community he had helped create was academicised, Rahv provided a half-laconic, half-anguished com­ mentary. In 1949 he himself began to teach university summer schools and the odd course in New York. ‘Everybody on PR is now teaching’, he wrote to a friend, 'w hich shows you how far things have gone.’74 ‘Maybe’, he mused, ‘I’m fated to end my days as a professor, like most American w riters.’75 In 1957 Rahv took up an appointment at Brandéis University, located in a suburb of Boston, where he remained until his death in 1973.76 ‘The Zeitgeist has got me down’, he remarked wryly. ‘There’s no escaping it.’77 Like Catherine Carver, William Barrett found it difficult to picture Rahv outside of downtown M anhattan: ‘It was strange to think of him entering into the professorial world, stranger still to think of him being extricated from the milieu of these New York streets where he seemed so eminently to belong.’78 By the time of his move to Boston, Rahv had for all intents and purposes quit PR’s editorial board, although his name continued to appear on the magazine’s masthead. In 1963 Phillips made arrangem ents for PR to be shifted from M anhattan to New Jersey, into offices owned by Rutgers University. Rahv made several frantic attem pts to sabotage Phillips’ plans. He was unsuccessful and the move went ahead.79 Phillips was appointed a professor, thus achieving a life-long ambition of his, and Richard Poirier, chair of

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Rutgers’ English Department, joined him on PR’s editorial board. These events caused considerable dismay amongst adherents of the ideal of the avant-garde. According to one observer, ’Some have likened Partisan Review's move to Rutgers to Rocky M arciano’s retirem ent; the old fight game as we know it is dead.’80 This, presumably, is why Rahv tried to block the move. The suburbanis­ ation and academicisation of PR signified to him the final stage of the institutionalisation of the New York Intellectuals. Ill In 1950 PR’s editors were still able to dismiss criticisms of them­ selves as the grumblings of discontented literary rivals. W ith the exception of the Hudson Review, their opponents had yet to organise themselves into a movement or create alternative avant-garde institutions. Over the course of the next ten years this state of affairs changed dramatically. The situation which developed in the 1950s was in many ways similar to th at which had existed in the 1930s. During the Depression the New York Intellectuals grouped together to form an independent community and founded PR be­ cause they had not been fully assimilated by the dom inant instit­ utions. By the 1950s PR had itself become a dom inant institution, or was at least perceived as such by young writers seeking mem­ bership of the cultural avant-garde. These writers viewed PR in much the same way th at the Intellectuals had regarded the univ­ ersities, w ith a peculiar mixture of yearning and revulsion. This ambivalence was reflected in their writing, w hich often flouted Intellectual conventions. Their lifestyles, too, were very different from those of the Intellectuals. For its part, PR was at first attracted to these young avant-gardists, but ultim ately repelled by their lack of conventionality. The result of all this was that, during the late 1950s, experimentalist writers began to form their own movements and edit their own magazines, and PR’s authority as avant-garde institution began to decline. Relations between the New York Intellectuals and the Beats had a peculiarly intim ate and problematic, almost a familial, quality. The origins of the Beat movement lay in roughly the same cultural territory as th at inhabited by the Intellectuals. Allen Ginsberg’s early intellectual career, for example, was remarkably similar to th at of Norman Podhoretz, who during the 1950s became an


The cultural avant-garde

associate of PR and a prom inent member of the New York Intellec­ tual community. Like Podhoretz, and most other 'third-generation' Intellectuals, Ginsberg attended Columbia University (as indeed did Jack Kerouac); he was even taught by Lionel Trilling, a founding father of the Intellectual community and leading m entor of its younger members. Considering these facts, one is eventually led to wonder why Ginsberg - or for that m atter Kerouac - did not copy Podhoretz’s example and simply join the Intellectual community, rather than engaging in the hazardous business of starting up a new literary movement of their own. There are several reasons why the Beats did not become New York Intellectuals. First, it had by this stage become extremely difficult to gain admission to the Intellectual community. The ex­ perience of the Beat publicist Seymour Krim is in this respect quite representative. Krim had been a 'satellite of the Partisan Review gang up to 1955’ when he suffered an emotional breakdown which, he realised later, had been partly caused by the stress of 'keeping up' with other young Intellectuals like Podhoretz and Theodore Solotaroff: he recalls being ‘in a constant state of anxiety and dependence’ because of the 'terrifying am ount of scholarship that the T. S. Eliot/Lionel Trilling combine demanded’.81 Second, the environment of New York itself was far less hospitable to young people trying to pursue a literary career in the 1950s than it had been previously. The rising cost of living in the city, the decay of public utilities, and the gentrification of the traditional quarters of bohemia all militated against the survival of an urban literary intelligentsia. It was symptomatic of these changes th at the Beats' favourite haunt was the West End Cafe in Momingside Heights, not some bar in Greenwich Village, and th at Ginsberg performed his Gidean actes gratuits in the massive shadows of Columbia’s Butler Library and the Union Theological Seminary.82 W hen one considers these conditions, it is easy to see why the Beats quit New York and rode the wave of suburbanisation into America’s hinter­ land, becoming ‘bohemians in the era of interstate highways’.83 Third, it is possible th at the Intellectual community’s failure to absorb the Beats had something to do w ith sex. So far as can be told from their memoirs and correspondence, the New York Intel­ lectuals were mostly heterosexual and monogamous; at least one of them was deeply homophobic.84 Therefore they probably took a dim view of the Beats’s m uch-vaunted sexual promiscuity, and

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m ight well have barred entrance to their community to a homo­ sexual like Ginsberg. Like the Intellectuals before them, the Beats set about transform ­ ing the stigma of rejection into a badge of honour - hence the term ‘Beat’. The Intellectuals attacked the universities, lambasting pro­ fessors for their clannishness and timidity; the Beats attacked the Intellectual community, resuscitating the complaints of earlier op­ ponents. Krim accused the Intellectuals of being 'overcerebral, Europeanish, sterilely critified, pretentiously alienated’.85 Accord­ ing to Kerouac, ’All my New York friends were in the negative . . . putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons’.86 In precisely the same way th at the Intellectuals’ characteristic values and concerns implicitly repudi­ ated those of the universities, the Beats constructed an identity for themselves which inverted elements of Intellectual discourse and practice. The Intellectuals rarely left the city; the Beats spent most of their lives on the road. The Intellectuals detested popular culture; the Beats adored it. The Intellectuals were critics; the Beats were poets and novelists. The Intellectuals paid more attention to Euro­ pean than American literature; the Beats revered and imitated writ­ ers like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. (There is an ethnic tinge to some of these oppositions - the Intellectuals’ en­ thusiasm for modern European literature perhaps seemed ethno­ centric to a younger, more assimilated Jew like Ginsberg.) It was as almost if the Beats had adopted the New York Intellectuals as negative role models. Predictably, the Intellectuals were unnerved by the emergence of the Beats. Younger members of the Intellectual community like Norman Podhoretz attacked ’The Know-Nothing Bohemians’ with almost hysterical ferocity, charging them with mindless primitiv­ ism and murderous anti-intellectualism .87 Podhoretz had worked hard to gain his position in the Intellectual community; it was more than he could bear to w atch as these Intellectual rejects denigrated all he held dear.88 The response of older Intellectuals, who had after all been bohemians themselves once, was more ambivalent and measured; the appearance of a new avant-garde prompted some uncomfortable thoughts. After talking with his Columbia pupil Allen Ginsberg about a book by Jack Kerouac, Lionel Trilling wrote in his notebook: I predicted th at it would not be good and insisted. But later I


The cultural avant-garde

saw with w hat bitterness I had made the prediction - not w anting Kerouac’s to be good because if the book of an accessory to m urder is good, how can one of mine be?89 Ten years later Ginsberg returned to Columbia to give a poetry recital, along with fellow Beats Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky. Diana Trilling, Lionel’s wife, went to the recital, and recorded her impressions of it in an article printed in PR. Her expectations of the event, she admitted, were confounded by the decent appearance and earnest utterances of the Beats, and she was surprised to find herself moved by some of their poems. Her report also included some gently satirical observations about a ’pleasant professional’ party of friends and colleagues which was held at the Trillings’ ’comfortable’ apartm ent on the evening of the recital.90 The article, she later explained, was m eant ’to explore my own ambiguity about respectability’.91 The Beats’ relations w ith PR followed the same pattern of attraction and repulsion. Ginsberg apparently wanted to be accepted by the magazine’s editors, and behaved towards them with the kind of decorum he had displayed at the Columbia poetry­ reading. William Phillips remembers him visiting PR’s Union Square office with a large selection of work by himself and other Beats, and his m anner being polite, almost deferential.92 Phillips enjoyed the encounter, and formed the opinion th at PR should publish a generous sample of Beat poetry. Philip Rahv, however, opposed such a move, and the magazine eventually printed only one poem by Ginsberg and one by Corso.93 Rahv’s opposition to Phillips is particularly ironic given his usual receptivity to experimental writing. Not only that, he strongly dis­ liked the conservative tenor of the 1950s literary lifestyle. ’The writers are much too respectable and prudent’, he once complained to a friend. ’[Tjhey get married early, settle down, and dream of a book-of-the-month club selection and other prizes of commercial­ ised letters.’94 Nonetheless, Rahv simply could not stomach the boisterous avant-gardism of the Beats; it offended too many of his cultural and political prejudices. Put to the test, he much preferred the more conventional critical offerings of a PR acolyte like Norman Podhoretz. The recognition PR granted the Beats was perfunctory, to say the least. In fact most of the magazine’s references to the new movement were critical, if not downright hostile. In retrospect, Phillips regrets th at PR did not treat the Beats better.95

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PR’s ‘olympian putdown’96 of the Beats seemed only to confirm w hat several observers already suspected: th at established Ameri­ can little magazines had lost interest in genuine literary innov­ ation. Ideas and learning and gossip m attered more to them, it seemed, than literature; w hat little creative w riting they did publish was pale and insipid.97 According to Seymour Krim: One was afraid of using one’s own voice at th at time. More to the point, it was despairingly hard to get a hearing for th at voice unless it was studded w ith a kind of modem formalism backed to the hilt by the most knowledgeable of the university-sponsored 'little' magazines, like the Sewanee Review, the Kenyon, the independent but Princeton-incubated Hudson Review, and of course the hiply hybrid Partisan Review, where my early Greenwich Village friends and gum s . . . published and held sway in New York literary society.98 The Beats had no option but to publish elsewhere. Fortunately for them, other groups of young writers were in the same predica­ ment. Poets of the ‘New York School', like James Merrill and Frank O'Hara, and fugitives from the disbanded experimental Black M ountain College, such as Robert Creeley, were also searching for publishing outlets. During the late 1950s these disparate move­ ments converged on New York and joined forces to launch little magazines of their own. The experiences of the Beats, New York School and Black M ountaineers duplicated those of the New York Intellectuals. Marginalised by the existing institutions, both groups of writers formed into avant-garde communities and built their own institutions. At first glance the new avant-gardists appeared to lack the Intellectuals’ cohesion and purposefulness; moreover, none of their magazines acquired the kind of hegemonic power which PR exercised over the Intellectual community. In fact there was a large measure of collaboration and coordination between the new magazines; they shared contributors, readers, even offices. The editors of Neon, Yugen and Kulchur (Gilbert Sorrentino, LeRoi Jones and Mark Schleifer, respectively) worked especially closely together;99 in effect they performed precisely the same role for the new avant-garde th at PR’s editors had performed for the Intel­ lectual community. These magazines benefited from links w ith the painters of the Abstract Expressionist school, who contributed cover designs and illustrations. Ties with the New York art world


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also provided access to hitherto untapped resources of literary patronage.100 The success of these ventures badly shook the con­ fidence of such magazines as PR. According to Sorrentino, a 'critical structure th at rigidly excluded such writers as [William Carlos] Williams and [Louis] Zukofsky did not know w hat hit it in the fifties'.101 The Beats and their allies in New York dared to defy PR’s leadership of the avant-garde, and won. Things would never be quite the same again. Notes 1 James T. Farrell. ‘A Comment on Literature and Morality', New Inter­ national 12 (1946): 145; Irving Howe, 'How Partisan Review Goes to War’, New International 13 (1947): 109. 2 Calder Willingham, 'Politics and the Artist’, New International 13 (1947): 222. Another contributor to the New International suspected that the use of psychoanalytic theory in literary criticism 'has done a great deal to bolster the sterile intellectual’s belief that all artistic creation is a form of neurosis, and has helped compensate him for his lack of fertility’. Arthur A. Diener, 'Psychoanalysis and Literature’, New International 13 (1947): 188. 3 Milton Howard. ‘Partisan Review. Esthetics of the Cage’, Mainstream 1 (1947): 46-57. 4 David A. Hollinger, In the American Province (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985) 90. 5 Randall Jarrell, letter to R. P. Blackmur, n.d. [probably November 1946], R. P. Blackmur Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. 6 Charles Angoff, ‘Concerning the Little Magazines’, Carleton Miscel­ lany 7.2 (1966): 13. 7 Seymour Krim, ‘Our Middle-Aged "Young Writers”: The AvantGarde at Dead End’, Commentary October 1952: 343. 8 See William Arrowsmith, ‘Partisan Review and American Writing’, Hudson Review 1 (1949): 526-36. 9 Eric Lee, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 10 January 1949, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale. A hostile review of a book by Irving Howe in the Sewanee Review also drew comparisons be­ tween PR and Time. Irving Howe, letter to John Palmer, 5 November 1951, Allen Tate Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. 10 Arrowsmith, Partisan Review 535. 11 William Phillips, ‘Portrait of the Artist as an American’, Horizon

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93-4 (1947): 12-19. William Barrett, ‘Notes on Being American', Horizon 93-4 (1947): 30-45. 12 Frederick Morgan, ‘Mr Connolly's America’, Hudson Review 1 (1948): 97. 13 Wyndham Lewis, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 26 January 1947, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale. 14 James Laughlin, letter to Delmore Schwartz, 8 January n.y. [prob­ ably 1953], Delmore Schwartz Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale. 15 Seymour Krim, ‘Short Stories by Six’, Hudson Review 3 (1951): 628-9. 16 Arrowsmith, Partisan Review 535. 17 Randall Jarrell, letter to R. P. Blackmur, n.d. [probably November 1946], Blackmur Papers. Jarrell also mentions, with disapproval, that he had heard ‘two of [PR’s] editors [say] that American writers would be as good as Camus and Sartre if they had a movement like existentialism to organise and inspire them’. In his memoirs, William Barrett describes the unease which Randall Jarrell diplayed in his personal relations with the New York Intellectuals. He particularly recalls Jarrell’s objecting to PR’s preoccupation with French Existentialism. William Barrett, The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals (New York: Doubleday, 1982) 126-7. 18 Stephen Spender, ‘The Situation of the American Writer’, Horizon 111 (1949): 171. 19 Malcolm Cowley, ‘Ten Little Magazines’, New Republic 31 March 1947: 32-3; Mark Schorer, ‘Art and Dogma’, New Republic 11 November 1946: 634-6. 20 ‘A Note on the Genteel Reader’, editorial. Partisan Review 14 (1947): 106-8. 21 Eric Bentley, ‘little Magazines’, Kenyon Review 9 (1947): 283-4. 22 Philip Rahv, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 20 April 1944, Blackmur Papers. 23 Delmore Schwartz, letter to John Berryman, 21 January 1945, in Letters of Delmore Schwartz, ed. Robert Phillips (Princeton: Ontario Review Press, 1984) 218. 24 Schwartz told Barrett: ‘I think maybe Partisan Review may be as much a hindrance as a help for political reasons.’ Delmore Schwartz, letter to William Barrett, 21 March n.y. [probably 1945], Schwartz Papers. 25 Extensive correspondence relating to this venture may be found in the R. P. Blackmur Papers. 26 The literary critics who nominated PR for foundation assistance included Louise Bogan, Frederick Hoffman, Granville Hicks, Alfred Kazin, Eric Bentley and Randall Jarrell. Their replies to the 1946 Rockefeller survey can be found in the R. P. Blackmur Papers.


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27 William Phillips, letter to Lionel Trilling, 13 July 1951, Lionel Trilling Papers, Butler Library, Columbia. 28 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 19 February 1952, Tate Papers. 29 Delmore Schwartz, letter to J. C. Ransom, 2 February 1954, in ed. Phillips, Letters 282; J. C. Ransom letter to R. P. Blackmur, 1 January n.y. [probably 1956], Blackmur Papers. 30 Eileen Simpson, Poets in Their Youth: A Memoir (London: Faber, 1982) 89. 31 Several years after they had both quit PR's editorial board George L. K. Morris informed Macdonald that he had recently 'been very bored by phone calls from W. Phillips . . . Some big foundation wants to subsi­ dise PR evidently and he . . . is in a perfect panic about expunging the politically suspect name of Macdonald from the records’. George L. K. Morris, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 3 May n.y. [probably 1947], Macdonald Papers. 32 Mary Jarrell, ed., Randall Jarrell’s Letters: An Autobiographical and Literary Selection (London: Faber, 1986) 409. 33 Simpson, Poets 89. 34 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (Lon­ don: Seeker, 1983) 160. 35 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 19 February 1952, Tate Papers. 36 Barrett, Truants 222. Allocation of magazine patronage was not the only way in which the foundations indicated their preference for the New Critics. In 1954 the Rockefeller Foundation turned down a proposal of the ACCF for a conference of little magazine editors. The ACCF was dominated by New York Intellectuals. Two years later the Rockefeller financed a reunion of New Critics in Nashville, birth-place of the so-called Fugitive movement. Charles B. Fahs, letter to Sol Stein, 19 February 1954, ACCF Papers, Tamiment Library, New York University; J. C. Ransom, letter to Robert Lowell, 1 May 1956, Robert Lowell Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard. 37 See below, chapter 8. 38 The matter of possible CIA funding of PR was publicly debated in the pages of Critical Inquiry in 1977, by William Phillips and Carol and Richard Ohmann. The Ohmanns, in the course of an article about J. D. Salinger, had referred to 'the sweet secret inducements proferred to intel­ lectuals by the CIA through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, Encounter, Partisan Review, and the instruments of cooptation’ (Critical Inquiry 3 [1976]: 37). On learning of this, Phillips wrote to Critical Inquiry de­ manding a retraction of the implicit allegation that PR had been in re­ ceipt of CIA monies, and threatened the Ohmanns with a libel suit. When they and the editors of Critical Inquiry wrote back to him elaborating the

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statement about PR, Phillips withdrew the threat of litigation and tackled the charge of CIA funding in a carefully reasoned argument. ‘Editorial Notes’. Critical Inquiry 3 (1977): 817-20. 39 Sidney Hook, letter to Howland H. Sargeant, 10 October 1952, ACCF Papers. 40 Report of ACCF Subcommittee to ACCF Executive Committee, n.d., ACCF Papers. 41 Philip Rahv did not Join Phillips on the ACCF. Indeed, he seems generally to have been more reluctant than his partner to Involve PR in organised anti-Communist activities. In 1948 he wrote to a friend: ‘Pretty soon, even the liberal journals, so-called, will be full of alarums and ex­ cursions about Stalinism, and when that time comes PR will be no longer “obsessed”, for it will find other things to discuss.’ Andrew James Dvosin, ‘literature in a Political World: The Career and Writings of Philip Rahv’, diss., New York University, 1977, 122. 42 William Phillips, A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Uterary Ufe (New York: Stein, 1983) 164-5. Diana Trilling reckoned that Phillips and Rahv coveted the subsidy given to Encounter. Diana Trilling, ‘Liberal AntiCommunism Revisited’, We Must March, My Darlings (New York: Har­ court, 1977) 60. 43 Phillips, Partisan View 180-3. 44 ‘A Statement on the CIA’, Partisan Review 34 (1967): 463-4: Philip Rahv, ‘Liberal Anti-Communism Revisited: A Symposium’, Commentary September 1967: 64-5. 45 Phillips, Partisan View 156-8. 46 Phillips, Partisan View 154-5. 47 Phillips, Partisan View 154. 48 See below, chapter 7. 49 Former officers of the Committee have repeatedly denied that they knowingly obtained government money. According to Sidney Hook, for example, the fact that the Farfield Foundation, one of the ACCF’s sponsors, was a conduit for CIA money was ‘not known to the members of the ACCF executive committee in 1952, nor in 1954, nor in 1955’. He attributes the success of the CIA’s deception to the identity of the Farfield’s president, Julius Fleischmann. Fleischmann was. Hook recalls, a ‘well-known philan­ thropist’ and cultural patron, and therefore a plausible ‘source of the foundation’s benefactions’ (Sidney Hook, letter, Commentary December 1982: 77-8). Be that as it may, it is a matter of record that the ACCF did receive subsidies from CIA-front foundations. In 1954, for example, the Committee’s budget of over $170,000 included a $41,000 grant from the Heritage Foundation, $10,000 from the Farfield Foundation, and $40,000 from the Fleischmann Foundation (Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals:


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The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987] 268). All three of these foundations were conduits for CIA money. In 1955 the ACCF re­ quested an emergency grant from the CCF to avert an impending financial crisis. The international Congress referred the request to the Farfield Foun­ dation, which agreed to disburse $10,000 to the American Committee (ACCF cable to CCF, 16 February 1955, ACCF Papers; ACCF cable to CCF, 9 May 1955, ACCF Papers; Farfield Foundation, memorandum to ACCF, 11 May 1955, ACCF Papers). Shortly afterwards, the threat of financial extinction still not averted, the ACCF’s chairman Norman Thomas, dis­ pensing with the services of the CCF and the Farfield Foundation, person­ ally approached CIA chief Allen Dulles and procured a gift of $10,000 (Diana Trilling, ‘Liberal Anti-Communism’ 61). (While not disputing Trill­ ing’s claim that Thomas lodged a personal phone call to Dulles requesting a donation to the ACCF, both Daniel Bell and Sidney Hook have raised the possibility that the resulting gift originated not from CIA coffers but rather from some personal source, either Dulles himself or a wealthy acquaintance of his [Phillips, Partisan View 154; Sidney Hook, Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper, 1987) 425-6]. Hook has also denied that Thomas was authorised to approach Dulles on the ACCF’s behalf. Hook, letter, Commentary 77.) 50 William Phillips, letter to the author, 1 December 1994; Hook, Out of Step 430. Sidney Hook has revealed that when the ACCF suspended its activities, its remaining funds were bequeathed to PR (and the New Leader). Arnold Beichman, an ACCF officer, has testified that the Committee 're­ ceive^] foundation gifts which were transmitted to the literary quarterly’. Hook, Out of Step 426; Arnold Beichman, letter, Society 21.6 (1984): 5. 51 See below, chapter 7. 52 See below, chapter 8. 53 Phillips, Partisan View 165-8. 54 Norman Podhoretz, Making It (New York: Random, 1969) 260. 55 Howe, Margin 130. 56 Podhoretz, Making It 239. 57 Alan Lelchuk, ‘Philip Rahv: The Last Years’, Images and Ideas in American Culture: The Functions of Criticism. Essays in Memory of Philip Rahv, ed. Arthur Edelstein (Hanover: Brandéis University Press, 1979) 212. 58 Podhoretz, Making It 320. 59 Lelchuk, ‘Philip Rahv’ 212. 60 Barrett, Truants 29. 61 Mark Krupnick, ‘He Never Learned to Swim’, New Review 2.22 (1976): 37.

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62 See Barrett. Truants 69, and Howe. Margin 159. 63 Phillips, Partisan View 279. 64 Randall Jarrell, letter to Allen Tate, 4 April 1945, in ed. Jarrell, Letters 124. Philip Rahv, letters to Robert Lowell, 2 January and 16 Janu­ ary 1946, Lowell Papers. Philip Rahv, letters to Allen Tate, 12 January and 24 January 1953, Tate Papers. 65 Barrett, Truants 112. 66 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 19 February 1952, Tate Papers. 67 Phillips, Partisan View 271. 68 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 19 February 1952, Tate Papers. 69 James Atlas, Delmore Schwartz: The Ufe of an American Poet (New York: Farrar, 1977) 98. 70 Dwight Macdonald, letter to George L. K. Morris, 25 June n.y. [probably 1942], Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to George L. K. Morris, n.d. [probably July 1942], Macdonald Papers. 71 Philip Rahv. letter to F. W. Dupee, 29 June 1945, F. W. Dupee Papers, Butler Library. Columbia. 72 For information about Rahv’s childhood, see Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the antt-Stallnlst Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 76. 73 Lelchuk, ‘Philip Rahv’ 205. 74 Philip Rahv, letter to Morton Dauwen Zabel, 10 October 1950, Morton Dauwen Zabel Papers, Newberry Library, Chicago. 75 Philip Rahv, letter to Morton Dauwen Zabel, 16 September 1949, Zabel Papers. 76 In the words of Irving Howe, Brandéis 'didn’t hesitiate to hire bright (sometimes eccentric) people who lacked Ph.Ds or had European creden­ tials little honored in the United States'. These included, to name only a few, Howe himself, Rahv, Lewis Coser and Herbert Marcuse. Considering this list of names, one might be justified in describing Brandéis as the gateway to American academe for ex-Mandst Jewish intellectuals. See Howe, Margin 183-93. 77 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 7 February 1957, Tate Papers. 78 Barrett, Truants 12. 79 Phillips, Partisan View 264. 80 Charles Newman, ‘Concerning the Little Magazines’, Carleton Miscellany 7.2 (1966): 62. 81 Seymour Krim, 'A Backward Glance O’er Beatnik Roads', The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History, ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie (New York: Jonkers, 1978) 325-6.


N otes

82 See Diana Trilling, ‘The Other Night at Columbia: A Report from the Academy’, Partisan Review 26 (1959): 219. 83 Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (New York: Basic, 1987) 55. 84 See Atlas, Delmore Schwartz 61-2. 85 Irving Howe, Decline of the New (London: Gollancz, 1971) 241. 86 Jacoby, Last Intellectuals 69. 87 Norman Podhoretz, ‘The Know-Nothing Bohemians’. Partisan Review 25 (1958): 305-18. 88 See Phillips, Partisan View 244-5. 89 ‘From the Notebooks of Lionel Trilling’, Partisan Review: The 50th Anniversary Edition, ed. William Phillips (New York: Stein, 1985) 31. 90 Diana Trilling, ‘Other Night at Columbia’ 230. 91 Roy Newquist, Counterpoint (London: George, Allen and Unwin, 1965) 596. 92 Phillips, Partisan View 219. 93 Allen Ginsberg, ‘Ready to Roll’, Partisan Review 25 (1958): 85. Gregory Corso, ‘In the Fleeting Hand of Time’, Partisan Review 25 (1958): 228. 94 Philip Rahv, letter to Allen Tate, 19 February 1952, Tate Papers. 95 Phillips, Partisan View 219. 96 Morris Dickstein, Gates of Eden: American Culture in the 1960s (New York: Basic, 1977) 6. 97 See Gilbert Sorrentino, 'Neon, Kulchur, Etc.’, The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Klnzie, 301, and Krim, ‘Our Middle-Aged “Young Writers”’, 343-4. 98 Krim, ‘A Backward Glance’ 326. 99 Sorrentino, ‘Neon, Kulchur, Etc.’ 307-11. 100 Dennis Barone, ‘Daisy Aldan, An Interview On Polder’, The Utile Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History (New York: Jonkers, 1978), ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, 270. 101 Sorrentino, ‘Neon, Kulchur, Etc.’ 301.

Part two The political vanguard

C h ap ter 5

Post-modern possibilities: Dwight Macdonald's Politics W hat the previous chapters have argued is th at Partisan Review's transform ation from institution of the cultural avant-garde into ancillary of the culture industries cannot be explained solely in terms of the personal failings of its editors. Far more im portant were the hegemonic forces th at gradually and inexorably eroded the magazine’s independence of institutions; and a set of un­ suspected correspondences between the roles of cultural avantgarde and culture industry adjunct th at hastened this process of institutionalisation. A similar argum ent can be made with regard to the New York Intellectuals’ political career, in particular their evolution during the 1950s from the vanguard of proletarian revolution into the advance-guard of US Cold W ar ideology, as the CIA covertly hired them to defend the cause of western intellectual freedom in the so-called Cultural Cold War. It is conventional to portray this apparent political volte-face as a gross act of intellectual betrayal, or treason; at the very least the Intellectual community is depicted, along w ith other Cold W ar ’liberal anti-Communists’, as ’a dupe of, or a slave to, the darker impulses of American foreign policy’.1 Yet the tru th was more complex than that. On the one hand, the Intellectuals were subject to a set of accommodationist political pressures no less intense than those confronting PR's edi­ tors as they struggled to preserve their cultural independence. On the other there were significant continuities between the two roles of professional revolutionary and Cultural Cold W arrior - contin­ uities which recent radical commentators, uncritically approving of the Intellectuals’ earlier political position, have failed to notice. Narratives of a fall from 1930s ideological grace into Cold W ar error are problematic for other reasons as well. They exaggerate the extent of the Intellectuals’ identification w ith the official


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American cause in the Cold War. As Chapters 7 and 8 show, there were im portant differences between the political agendas of the Intellectual community and the CIA; indeed, it will be argued th at the oft-repeated characterisation of the Intellectuals during the 1950s as ‘liberal anti-Communists’ is simply not accurate. Also traditional accounts of ideological lapse from Marxism to liberal­ ism occlude from historical view an intriguing and, in many ways, prophetic experiment in non-M arxist radicalism carried out by a small group of Intellectuals during the late 1940s, an experiment th at is the subject of the next two chapters. I During the late summer of 1943, following his failed attem pt to wrest control of the Partisan Review from William Phillips and Philip Rahv, Dwight Macdonald embarked on a project for a new political magazine. After a series of planning meetings held at his apartm ent, attended not only by allies within the New York Intellectual community, such as Mary McCarthy, Paul Goodman and Daniel Bell, but by an Italian journalist, Nicola Chiaromonte, as well,2 Macdonald drew up a prospectus outlining the magazine’s role, aims and editorial policies, which he then circulated to potential contributors. According to this prospectus, the momentousness of current political developments in the world, combined w ith the failure of existing magazines, both liberal and Communist, to address ‘these great events’, had created an urgent need for an ‘independent radi­ cal journal’. The Radical Review, as the magazine was provisionally named, would ‘provide a place where all varieties of radical thought can find expression, a center of consciousness for the Left’. Specifi­ cally, it would aim to ‘relate basic values to current events’. That is, in contrast to ‘most current political w riting’, which tended to ignore the ethical, cultural and psychological dimensions of politics, the new magazine would seek to identify the underlying principles of political behaviour, and interpret ‘the welter of daily phenom ena’ accordingly. As regards ‘editorial “line’” , the Radical Review would be anti-Stalinist, pacifist and anti-statist, committed to-a Trotskyist-style ‘Third Camp’ position on the War, and critical of the Allied democracies’ plans for post-W ar reconstruction of Europe. Nevertheless, it would avoid dogmatic adherence to

D w ight M acdonald’s Politics


particular political precepts, and ’afford free expression to radical views of varying tendencies'. There was to be only one editor, Dwight Macdonald, and a business m anager, Nancy Macdonald.3 These proposals attracted considerable interest. Many PR readers wrote to Macdonald expressing support for his position on the War, as opposed to th at of Phillips and Rahv, and assuring him that, should he succeed in launching a rival publication, they would transfer their allegiance to it immediately. One George P. Elliott, for example, reckoned th a t4PR is falling apart’, and informed Mac­ donald th at a ’lot of us are w ith you’.4 Several of PR’s contributors rallied around as well. Paul Goodman and Harold Rosenberg (both past enemies of Phillips and Rahv) responded to the prospectus w ith enthusiastic encouragem ent and friendly advice.5Lewis Coser, who had contributed to PR under the pseudonym ’Louis Clair’, also pledged himself to Macdonald’s cause, remarking: ’Everything seems to be crying out for some new and fresh radical magazine.’ In Coser’s opinion, Macdonald ’should lay much less emphasis on ’’nam es’’ and ’’sophistication’’ than PR’, and seek out contributors amongst young, as yet unknown American radicals who might, under his direction, become a ’homogeneous group’.6 These sug­ gestions were echoed by another of Macdonald’s correspondents, C. W right Mills, then a junior professor at the University of Mary­ land, who recommended several of his acquaintances to Macdonald as young intellectuals ’of the type you w ant to hook’.7 Like Coser, Mills was very generous w ith advice about the new magazine. Indeed it was he who first proposed th at Macdonald call it Politics, pointing out th at a name such as the Radical Review would deter potential readers and contributors in institutional employment.8 Heartened by the response to his prospectus, Macdonald decided to go ahead w ith the new magazine. The first issue of Politics appeared in February 1944. Notwithstanding the support of several of its contributors and readers, Macdonald never sought to challenge PR’s institutional authority w ithin the New York Intellectual community. Politics’ main purpose was to serve as a forum for the expression of radical political opinion, not an alternative vehicle for the cultural avantgarde. A simple comparison of the two magazines’ appearances reveals the differences betweeen their intended functions. PR, bound in paperback covers, printed in single columns in relatively large print (excepting the topical departm ents towards the back),


The political vanguard

and containing on average over a hundred pages per issue, cleariy belonged to the genre of literary periodical, or little magazine. Poli­ tics, printed on inferior quality paper, held together by staples, printed in two columns and rarely containing more than forty pages, more closely resembled a bulletin of some radical organis­ ation, such as the Trotskyists’ New International, or a liberal weekly, like the New Republic. This is not the only evidence testifying to the lack of serious rivalry between the two magazines. Both had offices in the same building (45 Astor Place), and used the same printer (the Liberal Press). Even after he had begun editing Politics, Macdonald would attend informal meetings of PR’s editorial board at William Phillips’ apartm ent, ’and plunge into argum ent with everyone’.9 And so on. Clearly the shared experience of refounding PR in the face of Stalinist opposition had created ties which would never be completely undone. However, this is not to say th at per­ sonal and political conflict between Macdonald and his former editorial colleagues ceased entirely after 1943. Few of Politics’ regular contributors were New York Intellectuals. The only member of the Intellectual community’s ‘founding gener­ ation’ who contributed more than five articles was Paul Goodman, and he had always been a peripheral figure. Among the younger Intellectuals, Irving Howe and Daniel Bell were associated with the magazine, but it was significant th at neither, at least at this stage in their careers, wrote for PR. For th at m atter, there were surpris­ ingly few Americans of any description in Potitics’ roster of regular contributors. On the whole, Macdonald disregraded Mills’ and Coser’s advice th at he build up an équipe of young American collaborators, just as he ignored suggestions th at he systematically plunder PR of its contributors. Instead he trained his attention on a very distinctive intellectual grouping, only recently formed and as yet quite obscure. During his time on PR both he and Nancy Macdonald had taken a par­ ticular interest in the welfare of European intellectuals displaced by Fascism and the War, sending them food packages and providing them w ith other kinds of practical assistance. In the course of this relief work he had come to appreciate the potential importance of these leftist refugees as a source both of informed commentary on events taking place in Europe, and of theoretical inspiration for American radicals. Consequently when he launched Politics in 1943 Macdonald immediately looked to Europe for contributions.

D w ight M acdonald’s Politics


As he explained in his prospectus, he conceived of the magazine as a ‘means of com m unication’ between displaced European intel­ lectuals and ’advanced opinion in this country’.10 In practice Politics’ relations w ith its refugee contributors also involved a large hum anitarian element. Both the Macdonalds were determined th at they should use their fortunate position as Ameri­ can citizens to assist foreign intellectuals who had suffered as a result of the War. Hence Politics quickly acquired the function of a refuge or asylum, a safe place where European refugees could shelter, reflect on their experiences and plan for their futures. Com­ pared with, say, PR’s editors, Macdonald appears to have been remarkably unconcerned w ith considerations of prestige or per­ sonal advantage in his dealings w ith European intellectuals. For example, it is typical that, when searching for British contributors, he preferred to deal with the provincial, lower middle class writers associated with the anarchist Freedom Press rather than w ith the patrician intellectual circles centred around cultural magazines like Cyril Connolly’s Horizon;11 and th at when gathering m aterial to reprint in a special French issue of Politics he encouraged his repre­ sentative in Paris, Lionel Abel, to ignore the prestigious Les Temps Modernes in favour of other, less-well-known magazines.12 Politics’ community of refugee contributors included Lewis Coser, a German Jew who had arrived in the US late in 1941 and met Macdonald through PR, Peter Gutman (‘Peter Meyer’), a Czech former member of the Polish Jewish Bund now living in Chicago, and Victor Serge, the former Bolshevik Belgian-Russian w riter whom Macdonald had helped to flee from France to Mexico.13 The most common national background, however, was Italian - Mac­ donald was later to describe Politics as an ‘Italian-American co­ production’.14 This was largely the result of the influence on the magazine of one man, the Italian anarchist Nicola Chiaromonte. Indeed, so influential was Chiaromonte th at it is w orth pausing briefly to note the main events in his life prior to his association w ith Macdonald. A young journalist working in Rome at the time of the rise of Fascism, Chiaromonte moved to Paris so th at he could write more freely. After fighting for the Loyalists in Spain (in André M alraux’s air squadron), he returned to Paris, only to have to uproot himself again, this time in order to escape the Nazis. Following a hazardous flight across southern France, during which his wife died, Chiaromonte arrived in Casablanca in 1940, from


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where he set sail for the US.1* Shortly after arriving in New York, he met Macdonald, and the two became very close friends. W hen Macdonald was planning Politics, Chiaromonte proved an In­ valuable collaborator. Subsequently he performed the duties of ‘contributor, adviser and talent scout’ for the magazine.16 In this last role, Chiaromonte introduced two other fugitive Ital­ ian Intellectuals to Politics, Niccolo Tuccl and Andrea Caffi. Tucci, a former member of the Italian Diplomatic Service who had sought asylum in the US in 1939, required almost constant help from Macdonald - for Instance, to sort out his tangled relations w ith the American immigration authorities.17 Macdonald’s reward was a regular column for Politics, ‘Commonsense’. Caffi, ’a Russian-born Italian savant’,1* looked back over a life even more eventful than Chiaromonte’s, including a period of Imprisonment in Russia In 1905 for Menshevik agitation, exile in Berlin and Paris, combat in the First World War, an attem pt to settle in Italy, and flight from Fascism. He had eventually come to rest in France, spending the last twenty years of his life in Paris and Toulouse, in poverty (he died ln 1955).19 Chiaromonte, who had met Caffi in Paris in the 1930s and fallen under his intellectual influence (as did several Americans who met him in the late 1940s, such as Saul Bel­ low),20 alerted Macdonald to both his Importance as an original radical thinker - ’he is quite an outstanding man, and one of the few of his generation who could give a substantial contribution to the "formation of a new left”’ - and the precariousness of his current situation - ’in order to produce he needs a minimum of m aterial comfort (he is 62, and not in good health)’.21 Macdonald willingly printed a num ber of Caffi’s political essays (he later con­ sidered one of these, ’Violence and Sociability’, to be among the best articles ever printed in Politics),22 and tried to ease the Italian’s poverty by paying for his contributions at well over norm al rates.23 Politics’ most spectacular gesture of solidarity w ith European intellectuals was its ’Food Package Project’, launched by Nancy Macdonald after the end of the W ar, w ith the aim of putting the families of readers in touch w ith the families of members of political parties or splinter groups in Europe, to whom they would then send packages of food or clothes. In 1946 as many as 1,200 American families sent packages to over 800 European families; advertise­ ments run in Politics during the same year helped raise $12,600.24 So successful was this initiative th at Dwight Macdonald

D w ight M acdonald's Politics


was moved to remark: ‘Sometimes it seems th at Politics is a house organ of the package project rather than a magazine of its ow n/25 The project’s success was not measurable only in m aterial terms: as well as providing European leftists w ith practical aid, it created a sense of international fraternity and community. ’This action, begun on the ’’charity’’ level,’ explained Macdonald, ’seems to develop rapidly into a hum an relationship, in which both parties get their chief satisfaction . . . from the friendly, personal feelings aroused on each side.’26 These last comments are revealing. Politics' readers were, for Macdonald, more than passive consumers. Rather he sought to involve them as active members of the international intellectual community which the magazine served. A comparison w ith PR’s editors conception of the role of the reader is revealing. The first point to make in this regard is th at the social composition of the two magazines’ readerships was remarkably similar. According to the findings of a survey of regular subscribers carried out early in 1947 by C. W right Mills and Ruth Harper Mills, Politics' readership was young (48% of the men and 40% of the women surveyed were aged between 2 5 and 34), predominantly salaried and professional, (with an academic bloc - that is, college professors, school teachers and students - of 38%) and concentrated along the eastern seabord (47% lived in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsyl­ vania, but only 16% in mid-western states). Considering this data, it comes as no surprise to learn th at 37% of Politics' subscribers also read PR.27 Despite the contiguity of the two magazine’s audiences, there were im portant differences between the ways in which PR’s editors and Macdonald constructed their readerships. PR was oriented towards its contributors, not its readers. Phillips and Rahv edited their magazine in such a way th at it appeared to float free of the actual conditions of its production and consumption, existing only w ithin the hermetically sealed discursive universe of the New York Intellectual community. True, readers were invited to assume the identity of a member of the Intellectual community, but only on an imaginative level. In contrast, Macdonald was disarmingly candid about the ’constructedness’ of Politics, often printing frank reports about the parlous state of the magazine’s finances. Using the journalistic skills he had acquired while working as a columnist for the Luce publication Fortune, Macdonald wrote and edited in a


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lively, entertaining, easily understandable style. Politics' readers were encouraged to view the magazine as a cooperative venture, and to express their opinions about its contents and policies. W hen several of the respondents to the Mills’ 1947 survey complained th at Politics' theoretical articles were obscure and esoteric, Mac* donald promised them th at he would in future edit such articles ’with more consideration for the “lay” reader’.2* W riting in the 1950s, Macdonald recalled: ‘It was a responsive, irritable readership, who wrote many letters-to-the-editor, most of which I printed, especially the more unfavorable ones.’29 This solicitude for the reader seems to have fostered considerable loyalty towards the magazine. The following comment, contained in a letter to Mac­ donald from a subscriber, was not untypical: ‘I’ve felt involved in the magazine as I never have done w ith any other.’30 The Food Package Project was the culm ination of Macdonald’s efforts to in­ clude his readers, actually as well as rhetorically, in the inter­ national intellectual community he was building around the institution of Politics. In the words of H annah Arendt: While it existed, [Politics] was less a one-man magazine than a one-man institution, providing a focal point for m any who could no longer fit into any party or group. The feeling of companionship among its readers had something almost embarrassingly personal about i t . . . Among the things that made this magazine an institution - and I think a unique one - was th at Macdonald regarded his readers . . . as his intellectual equals.31I II The single most im portant factor shaping Politics’ m aterial history was its editor’s independence from patrons, both individual and institutional. In 1943 Macdonald’s savings from his job on Fortune am ounted to $20,000. In addition to this, Nancy Macdonald had recently inherited a large sum of money. Between them, then, Politics’ editor and business m anager were capable of financing the magazine, at least in its early stages, by themselves. That said, they did receive gifts of money from several friends, such as M argaret de Silver, the widow of the assassinated anarchist Carlo Tresca, and George L. K. Morris, PR’s old ’angel’.32 Still, this support was

D w ight M acdonald’s Politics


not systematic, and did not entail the obligations normally involved in the patronage relationship. It was just as well th at Politics enjoyed this degree of financial independence. By his own admission, Macdonald was a stubborn, irascible and impetuous individual. During his six-year spell on PR’s editorial board, he had been constantly infuriated by w hat seemed to him the unw arranted cautiousness of his fellow-editors. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that, had Politics had a patron other than himself, Macdonald would have found it very difficult to accommodate his or her views. His jeering remarks to Rahv about PR’s new angel, Mary Herder Norton, suggest how unsuited he was to the task of negotiating the patronage relationship.33 (Rahv, incidentally, prided himself on his skill at handling, or hood­ winking, wealthy WASP patrons.) As it was, Macdonald was completely free to steer Politics in whatever direction he liked - as long, of course, as he did not break any wartime restrictions on political expression. This freedom was all the greater because he did not have any editorial colleagues: Politics was indeed a ’onem an’ venture (except th at this characterisation overlooks Nancy Macdonald’s injections of money and labour as business manager). Macdonald later summarised his contribution to the magazine thus: *Politics came out once a m onth, and I wrote at least a quarter of each issue, edited it, published it, and raised the money for it.’34 It was this aspect of Politics which was most admired by other intellectuals who did not share Macdonald’s political opinions. William Barrett’s observation th at Politics ‘was interesting mainly as an exhibition of [Macdonald’s] own extraordinary energies and skills’ was a back-handed compliment, but a compliment nonetheless.35 More remote still was the likelihood of Politics acquiring an institutional patron. Editors of institutionally funded magazines had less opportunity to negotiate the latitude permitted them in the patronage relationship, and therefore were forced to exercise so much discretion th at they effectively internalised the values of their patrons. Macdonald was not the kind of person to tolerate such an arrangem ent. W hen the Review of Politics, a political jour­ nal published by the Catholic university Notre Dame, refused to exchange advertisements w ith Politics, Macdonald wrote to its editor W aldemar Gurian: The only reason I can think of is th at Politics is left wing and


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perhaps a trifle scandalous from the official Catholic view­ point. Your Review is a Catholic magazine, published at a college which holds to official (rather than liberal) Catholicism. Thus you might well invite trouble if you exchanged ads w ith us. But is it not your obligation precisely to invite such trouble, to refuse to submit to this kind of narrowminded censorship of ideas?36 Amongst all the New York Intellectuals Macdonald was perhaps the most jealous of the principle of editorial freedom. Whenever an incident of institutional censorship occurred, he was usually the first to protest, rem onstrating either with the editors of the maga­ zine or the officers of the institution concerned, as the situation seemed to him to dem and.37 Of course, the question of w hether Macdonald would have accepted institutional patronage for Politics if it were offered him is academic. It is difficult to imagine any institution w anting to patronise Politics. As far as the universities or publishing houses were concerned, the magazine, although clearly Modernist in its cultural sympathies, did not contain enough literary m aterial for it to possess any real utility. Political institutions, on the other hand, would have been repelled by its radicalism. Not even the fact th at Macdonald was an anti-Stalinist would have counted in his favour: it was not until 1950 that government and foundation officers began to show an interest in the activities of anti­ com m unist intellectuals. The only obvious institutional candidate for the role of patron to Macdonald was some ‘counter-institution’, th at is a radical political organisation. Magazines like Politics were usually published by such organisations, w ith funds provided by membership dues. Macdonald, however, had already ruled out such a possibility. In his 1943 prospectus, he had adam antly stated th at the projected magazine would, ‘of course, be independent of any political party’.38 It should be mentioned at this point th at Macdonald had resigned from the Socialist Workers Party in 1941. Subsequently, like Phillips and Rahv before him, he came to mis­ trust all Marxist organisations, regardless of their particular doc­ trinal allegiances. After 1941 his participation in political parties was limited to pacifist organisations such as the W ar Resisters’ League and the Committee for Non-Violent Revolution.39 The absence of regular support from an outside source ensured Macdonald editorial independence. However, it also exposed him

D w ight M acdonald's Politics


and his wife to great financial risk. It almost goes w ithout saying th at Politics was not a commercial venture. It therefore suffered from the same problems as little magazines, th at is, high operating costs and low revenue from sales or advertising. This became ap­ parent as soon as Politics began publication: although the first issue had a print run of 4,000, only 2,000 copies were sold.40 Com­ pounding the usual problems of promotion and distribution was the ‘pass-on phenom enon’: almost 80% of the subscribers surveyed in 1947 confessed th at their copies of Politics were also read by someone else. In 30% of such cases, the num ber of ‘parasitical’ readers was three or more. This m eant th at Politics in fact had a readership over two and a half times the num ber of copies sold.41 Even harder to come by than paying readers were paying adver­ tisers. Much of the advertising space in Politics was taken up by exchange advertisements for other magazines. As Macdonald observed in a letter to the W ar Production Board: ‘The volume of advertising is negligible’.42 It cannot, therefore, have come as much of a surprise to Macdonald to learn that, after a year of publication, Politics had lost over $3,000.43 In itself this deficit was not disastrous. However, the Macdonalds’ personal savings were not inexhaustible. As long as they were both involved in bringing out a magazine on a monthly basis, they did not have the time or energy to engage in other income-generating activities. Hence their living expenses, which were considerable (they had two young children), had also to be financed from their savings. If Politics continued to make such losses, the Macdonalds risked bankruptcy. Nevertheless, the situation was not entirely hopeless. Politics en­ joyed certain advantages which other non-commercial magazines did not. To start with, the relatively inferior quality of the physical m aterials Macdonald used, combined with the simplicity of Politics’ format, m eant th at production costs were low. Politics’ printing expenses were, in fact, approximately half those of PR’s.** This was not the only area in which the magazine stood to save money. For one thing, its business m anager’s labour was free. For another, Macdonald’s considerable editorial experience and seemingly endless reserves of energy made it unnecessary for him to employ salaried office staff, at least not on a regular basis.45 In other words, Politics stood a better chance than most non-commercial magazines of achieving financial viability by driving down its operating deficits to a manageable level.


The political vanguard

Perhaps Politics* greatest advantage over such little magazines as PR was its editor's active concern with readership. Disappointed by his early sales figures, Macdonald embarked on a vigorous pro­ motion campaign, mailing unsold copies to potential subscribers (whose names and addresses he obtained from lists exchanged with other magazines) and potential retail outlets. It was suggestive of the differences between Macdonald’s priorities and those of the editors of more conventional little magazines th at a relatively greater proportion of Politics’ paid circulation could be accounted for in terms of newsstand and bookstore sales (Politics’ sales were about evenly divided between subscription and direct retail).46After a year of publication, the magazine’s circulation had risen from 2,000 to 3,300, a substantial increase by any standards.47 The year 1945 found Macdonald in an extremely optimistic frame of mind about Politics’ future. The success of his promotion drive had convinced him th at his operating deficits were not only manageable, but could be eliminated altogether; if production costs stayed at their current level, and circulation carried on rising at the same rate, then Politics would begin to support itself. In December 1944 Macdonald circularised his subscribers w ith a letter asking them to try to interest their friends in the magazine. According to his calculations, with just 6,000 subscriptions it could break even.48 By the end of 1945, the Macdonalds had increased Politics’ circulation to over 5,000, and reduced its losses from just over $3,000 to just under $1,000.49 Although his hopes had not quite been realised, Macdonald was jubilant. Towards the close of 1945, he launched the ’Building Politics Fund’, aiming to raise enough money through donations from readers to expand the magazine’s base of operation and enlarge its readership to 10 .000.50

in W riting retrospectively in the 1950s, Macdonald suggested th at two major historical events had been crucial in shaping the particular values and concerns of Politics. One of these was the Second World War, or more precisely ’the terrible last years of the war, with the Nazi death-camps and the atomic bombings and the gray dawn of ’’peace" . . . All of this demanded attention, reporting, exposure, analysis, satire, indignation, lam entation.’51 During its

D w ight M acdonald’s Politics


first two years of publication Politics published literally hundreds of articles on the War, ranging from Bruno Bettelheim’s hugely influential essay on the psychology of the concentration camps, ‘Behavior in Extreme Situations’, to Simone Weil’s poetic medi­ tation on the moral crisis of the Second World War, ‘The Iliad’, from Macdonald’s own reflections on the meaning of German w ar crimes, ‘The Responsibility of Peoples’, to his scathingly funny commentary on the bloodcurdling rhetoric of General George S. Patton, ‘Atrocities of the Mind’.52 True, Macdonald’s wartime ‘revolutionary defeatist’ position was, as he later admitted himself, misguided; still, it provided him with an unusual vantage point outside of the ideological consensus from which to view the events of the era, which perhaps helps explain the extraordinary insight­ fulness of his W ar reportage. In Daniel Bell’s opinion, the most memorable essays published in Politics were those concerned with ‘the psychology of killing, the pathetic attem pts to expiate guilt, the mock bravado of w ar’. It was the War, Bell reckoned, which provided the magazine w ith its ‘singular theme’: [T]he event of depersonalisation: the denigration of the individual through the impersonality of killing; the role of terror and extreme situations; how things happen to people and people become ‘things’, the turning of society into a mechanism.53 The other historical event Macdonald mentioned as a crucial influence on Politics was American intellectuals' disillusionment w ith Marxism.54 In Macdonald’s own case, deconversion from Marxism was unusually rapid and decisive, and was accompanied by a repudiation of scientific political theory and organised mass political activity tout court. In 1944 he had defined Politics’ ‘spirit’ as ‘scientific, materialistic, this-worldly, democratic, hum anist’, and included the names of Rousseau and Marx among the lumin­ aries of the intellectual tradition to which the magazine belonged. By 1946 the accumulated shocks of recent years, in particular the Americans’ atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had, as far as Macdonald was concerned, discredited Politics’ Enlightenment culture heroes, and destroyed his faith in science and democracy.55 In a two-part essay, ‘The Root Is Man', published in Politics, Macdonald mounted a critique of Marxism and the whole ‘scientific method’.56 Like other ‘progressive’ political thinkers, Marx had


The political vanguard

shown a disastrous disregard for ethical values and the needs of the individual, subordinating them as he did to such historical imperatives as progress and science, argued Macdonald. Moreover, he had failed to predict the course of history accurately: the working class had not overthrown its bourgeois exploiters, and far from ‘withering away’, the state had grown totally powerful.57 In short, Macdonald attempted to show that Marxism was ’no longer a reliable guide to either action or understanding’.58 Hence Macdonald’s new position vis-à-vis Marxism differed fundamentally from th at of his former colleagues on PR. Despite their disengagement from Marxist practice and identification w ith cultural avant-gardism, Rahv and Phillips never relinquished the identity of frustrated professional revolutionaries. That is, they continued to perceive themselves as a revolutionary vanguard albeit, given the absence of a viable proletariat, an independent, free-floating vanguard. Also, they still criticised existing social and cultural arrangem ents from a basically Marxian perspective. In particular, they depended heavily on the Marxist concept of alien­ ation in order to theorise their pessimism about their own social condition. Their ’mind-set’, to quote Macdonald, ’retained its Marxist form though now filled with how different a content’.59 As a result of this persistence of vanguardist habits of thought, w hat William Barrett has described as ’The Grip of Orthodoxy’,60 PR’s editors were unable to conceive of alternative kinds of radical theory and practice. Therefore, when Macdonald announced not only his resignation from the class struggle but also his complete rejection of Marxism, they automatically assumed th at he had abandoned politics altogether, and was about to retreat into a state of yogic detachm ent, perhaps even take up some religion. For example, a 1946 PR editorial comment accused him of flying ’into an empyrean of moral rectitude and passivity, transcending the uproars and skirmishes of the political arena’.61 (Insinuations th at Macdonald’s instincts were basically religious rather than political continued long after the 1940s. In his memoirs, published in 1982, Barrett speculated: *Politics for him, I think, was really a groping for salvation of some kind.’62) In fact Macdonald did not waver for a moment from his devout atheism .63 Nor did he show any sign of withdrawing from the political fray. Indeed, he actually rejected the sort of ‘saving rem­ n an t’ strategy adopted by ex-Marxists like PR’s editors, precisely

D w ight M acdonald’s Politics


because it seemed to him to invite political disengagement. W hen A rthur Koestler told the New York Times th at he hoped a ‘New Fraternity of Pessimists’ would ‘create oases in the interregnum desert’ dedicated to preserving hum ane ideals for more auspicious times, Macdonald commented in Politics:64 The next few decades require not an ‘oasis psychology’ among Left intellectuals, but rather a more conscious, active intervention in the historical process. It will be a period of tremendous suffering, tremendous revolutionary possibilities, in Europe and the colonial countries. One’s endeavour should be not to withdraw into illusory ‘oases’ but rather to go into the desert, share the common experience, and try to find a road out of the wildemess.6S Hence the end of the W ar found Macdonald casting around for new sources of radical thought and devising new forms of radical practice. Given his disillusionment w ith political collectivism, and a selfconfessed ‘natural bent’ towards moralism and individualism, it was inevitable th at Macdonald should be draw n to intellectual traditions whose principal concern was with the individual, not the collectivity.66 Like PR’s editors, and the Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School, he displayed great interest in psychoanalysis. However, there were significant differences between his reading of Freud, and those of other ex-Marxists. Whereas Phillips and Rahv were concerned mainly w ith the neurosis of the modem artist, which they tended to revere as a sign of grace, and Adorno and Horkheimer were interested chiefly in Freud’s pessimistic later work, in which he described the repressiveness and masochism of modem civilisation, Macdonald ‘used’ psychoanalysis as a tech­ nique of personal liberation, in a m anner similar to the ‘lost intellectuals’ of the 1920s, and the counter-cultural ‘gum s’ of the 1960s. It was during this period th at Paul Goodman and Isaac Rosenfeld, two of Politics’ American associates, were converted to Wilhelm Reich’s ‘Orgone Theory’, a body of psychoanalytic doctrine considered so disreputable by PR’s editors as not even to m erit discussion. Still, as Stephen Whitfield has pointed out, Macdonald’s employ­ m ent of Freudian concepts was evocative rather than system­ atic.67 There were, in any case, other traditions of individualist


The political vanguard

thought available to him besides psychoanalysis. In a series ra n in Politics under the title 'Ancestors*, Macdonald and members of his équipe of contributors explored and celebrated the theoretical legacy of a num ber of political thinkers hitherto neglected by the New York Intellectuals: Tolstoy, Weber, Proudhon, Tocqueville, Godwin, Herzen and Tucholsky. Out of this series emerged two broad themes. The first was a critique of modern progressive thought, as masking a will to scientific mastery, and leading in­ evitably to the tyranny of centralised, bureaucratic state power. The second was a broad set of proposals designed to reverse this process, by rebuilding a genuinely democratic public sphere on the basis of open, friendly relations between individuals. These pro­ posals were elaborated in another occasional Politics series, started in 1945, 'New Roads in Politics’. Thus Macdonald set about constructing a usable radical tradition out of strains of anarchist, syndicalist and pacifist thought.68 He was not alone in this endeavour. As Irving Howe has observed, Macdonald's 'work drew upon a trend in W estern intel­ lectual life during the forties w h e n . . . a number of European intel­ lectuals . . . tried to plant a radical politics in the soil of hum anist sentim ent and ethical value’.69 Chief among the intellectuals who influenced Macdonald towards this 'European tu rn ’ were Nicola Chiaromonte and, his influence relayed via Chiaromonte, Andrea Caffi. After arriving in the US, and being absorbed into Politics' community of refugee intellectuals, Chiaromonte had ‘adopted Macdonald intellectually’, thus inverting the original relationship of dependence between them .70 Henceforth the American would constantly look to his Italian friend for political inspiration and guidance. During the 1930s, while in exile in Paris, Chiaromonte had received instruction from Caffi in the precepts of non-violent anarchism . Rejecting the M arxist-Leninist concept of vanguard-led revolutions as inherently authoritarian and violent, Caffi en­ visioned radical change beginning organically at grassroots level, with individuals coming together spontaneously to form associa­ tions, or 'popular communities’, dedicated to the Enlightenment virtue of ‘sociability’, and then forging links with similar commun­ ities elsewhere, so as to create ‘sociable’ international net­ works.71 Following his encounter with Caffi Chiaromonte discarded collectivist political theory and practice in favour of decentralis­ ation and voluntaristic communal living.72 Subsequently his

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anarcho-pacifist beliefs acquired an Existentialist tinge, as his w ar­ time experiences in France and North Africa (where he became friendly with Albert Camus) convinced him th at history was cha­ otic, governed not by laws but by accident, and, consequently, th at hum an beings were radically free: I remember being totally obsessed by a single thought: we had arrived at hum anity’s zero hour, and history was senseless; the only thing th at made sense was th at part of m an which remained outside of history, alien and impervious to the whirlwind of events.73 It would seem th at Chiaromonte’s influence on Macdonald was at its height during the summers of the mid-1940s, when they holidayed together in the town of Truro on Cape Cod. Truro, and the neighbouring town of Wellfleet, were, in this period, the favourite summer resorts of many New York Intellectuals. Each year a colony of fugitives from the mid-summer heat of M anhattan would form there, only to disperse w ith the onset of autum n. Liberated from the constricted, sectarian world of the Village and the Lower East Side, the vacationing Intellectuals made the most of this annual opportunity to form new relationships and experi­ m ent w ith new ideas. In her memoirs of her m arriage to John Berryman, the psychologist Eileen Simpson records the extra­ ordinary intellectual excitement th at prevailed on the Cape during the summers of the mid-1940s, when she and her husband fell in w ith Dwight and Nancy Macdonald, who amongst other activities organised picnics, swimming parties and a series of discussion evenings, presided over by Nicola Chiaromonte. Almost half a century later Simpson vividly recalled the brilliance and boister­ ousness of the Politics Intellectuals’ evening conversations: Politics, domestic and foreign, Marxism, psychoanalysis, the poetry of Louis Aragon - there was no lack of subjects, nor of fuel to heat the argum ents . . . John [Berryman] would shout, Paul [Goodman] would shout, Dwight would shout, ‘W hat? My God! You believe that? You m ust be crazy.’74 The most exciting and productive of these annual gatherings appears to have taken place in 1945 - the same year th at Politics reached the height of its influence. Certainly Mary McCarthy remembers 1945 as a ‘watershed, a dividing line’.75McCarthy, who


The political vanguard

had remained firm friends w ith Macdonald since their time together on PR, first met Chiaromonte in Truro in 1944, but it was not until the following summer th at she was captivated by his ideas, and became one of his most fervent intellectual devotees. Then, fully immersed for the first time in the exuberant atmosphere th at surrounded the Macdonalds, his proposals for a new radicalism impressed her w ith the force of a revelation. The times seemed especially propitious: the end of the W ar had opened up innum er­ able political possibilities, while the conflagration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki urgently demanded a radical response. 'The political scene looked free', she remembered later: At least there was still hope of small libertarian movements . . . Dwight and Chiaromonte and I used to talk about it a great d e a l . . . It seemed possible still, utopian but possible, to change the world on a small scale . . . It was a good period.76 It is not surprising therefore th at Macdonald should have chosen this year to present his own radical recommendations to the world. His two-part Politics essay, 'The Root Is Man’, in addition to criti­ cising Marxism and the scientific method, outlined a programme of pacifist, anarcho-syndicalist action, grounded on an affirmation of certain 'absolute and non-historical values, such as Truth and Justice', and a recognition of the primacy of 'the feelings of the individual’. Specifically, Macdonald proposed the formation of 'psychological communities’, dedicated to the principles of pacifism, voluntarism and personal happiness. Although they were to practice civil disobedience, these communities were not to sever connections with society; everything was to be done to ensure th a t those who wanted to could join them easily.77 Macdonald later described his thought in this period as 'individualistic, decentral­ ised, essentially anarchist’.78 W hat are we to make of these ideas? How practical were they, and w hat use, if any, are they now? There were, of course, consider­ able weaknesses in Macdonald’s and his friends’ radical prog­ ramme. As Irving Howe, then a young Trotskyist, pointed out a t the time, in a highly critical response to 'The Root Is Man’ th at Mac­ donald printed in Politics, their suggestions were rather vague and insubstantial, especially those concerning the creation of 'psycho­ logical communities’. In practice, would not such communities.

D w ight M acdonald’s Politics


Howe asked, ‘at best rem ain subject to the economic laws and mores of the capitalist society in which they exist and provide solace for a few weary recluses?’ And did not this proposal betray a ‘funda­ mentally snobbish attitude’, for who else but ‘intellectuals and other saints’ would join in such ventures?79 It would be difficult to deny th at there were traces of escapism, defeatism and elitism in Macdonald’s plans. Despite his condem­ nation of the detached vanguard strategy favoured by Koestler, PR’s editors and the Critical Theorists, Macdonald himself tended on occasions to exhibit an ‘oasis psychology’. While on this point it is w orth noting certain correspondences between his new radical programme and the conservative political visions of such displaced American aristocrats as T. S. Eliot and Allen Tate, who likewise abhorred technology and prescribed decentralisation as a solution to the ills of modern society.80 Moreover, his constant privileging of cosmopolitan universalisai over particularist ties and loyalties, typical of a New York Intellectual, caused him to ignore social movements th at might have provided his radical project with a popular constituency. This tendency, combined with his (again typical) valorisation of European over American intellectual tradi­ tions, which led him to overlook homegrown resources of radical thought, greatly weakened his new radicalism.81 Still, these deficiencies should not be allowed to divert attention from the considerable merits of Macdonald’s proposals. Not least of these was the fact that, at a time of considerable demoralisation and despondency amongst left intellectuals, he was attem pting something different, something new: few other New York Intel­ lectuals showed a similar inclination to risk their vanguardist authority by rethinking their political position in this period. More­ over, in daring to imagine a radical alternative to M arxistLeninism, Macdonald came closer than anyone else to defining a practicable radical politics for the post-W ar era, as was proved in subsequent decades. The proposals he and his Italian collaborators Chiaromonte and Caffi advanced for a decentralised, spontaneous, grassroots activism prefigured in im portant ways the biack civil rights movement of the 1950s, the peace campaigns of the 1960s and the dissident struggles w ithin the former Eastern bloc of the 1980s.82 The most obvious links though are with the American New Left, which shared not only the Politics Intellectuals’ ab­ horrence of collectivism, technology and bureaucracy, but also


The political vanguard

their emphasis on the values of the community, the psychic and bodily needs of the individual, and personal empowerment. It is no coincidence th at two prom inent sixties gurus, Paul Goodman and C. W right Mills, were closely associated with Politics during the 1940s. W riting in 1968, H annah Arendt remarked how many of the articles, comments and reports th at appeared in Politics 'read as though they were w ritten today or yesterday’. More recently, Macdonald’s biographer Stephen Whitfield styled his subject an ’ancestral voice of the New Left’.83 The rigid, pessimistic vanguardism of PR's editors offered little to the radicals of a later generation; the radical humanism of Macdonald, however, offered much. It still offers much today, when the main hope for political change appears to lie not with mass parties and the class struggle, but rather with particular groups engaged w ith specific issues, oper­ ating on the margins of society. It should be mentioned here th a t Macdonald, alone amongst the New York Intellectuals, sought to forge new connections w ith active, oppositional social groups during the 1940s. Abroad Politics devoted considerable coverage during 1944 and 1945 to those European Resistance movements th at had announced the intention of fighting on after the end of the W ar for social change. Meanwhile at home the magazine sympathetically monitored the activities of various pacifist groups as they challenged the military and civilian authorities over a num ber of issues.84 Perhaps most significantly, Macdonald, again almost uniquely, showed a particular interest in the special prob­ lems of African-Americans, describing race relations as ’the most dynamic social issue of today’, and regularly denouncing segre­ gation in the armed forces and other forms of discrimination against black soldiers. Indeed, a 1943 Nation article of his was later published as a pamplet by A. Philip Randolph’s March on W ashington Movement.85 Ultimately the Resistance forces of liberated Europe would dis­ appoint Macdonald’s expectations of them, and his interest in the American peace movement would evaporate during the late 1940s. Also, it has to be said th at Politics' peacetime handling of the black freedom struggle was at best limited and superficial - much as its treatm ent of women’s issues was practically non-existent. It would seem that the universalist biases and obsession w ith independence th at Macdonald shared w ith other New York Intellectuals prevented him from identifying too closely w ith any of these

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particularist causes. Nonetheless, the fact remains th at he did anticipate some of the great political issues of the post-W ar period, such as race and militarism. Not only that, he also foresaw the shape of future adversarial political activity: decentred, m arginal, local, individualistic. And this was at a time when other ex-Marxists were still preoccupied w ith the failure of the working class to develop a revolutionary consciousness. In the end perhaps the best thing th at can be said of Macdonald is th at he 'grasped something which many radicals have never understood, i.e., th at the first task of someone engaged in politics is to do something’.86 During the summer of 1945 Nicola Chiaromonte was visited by his friend Albert Camus, who suggested that they work together on ’the formation of groups of individuals in various countries ’’committed’’ to some statem ent of principles’. On learning of this proposal, Macdonald wrote to Camus recommend­ ing th at they begin by issuing a ’pamphlet stating our reasons for rejecting the traditional large-scale mass-historical kind of activity and our ideas of how to make a new approach from the bottom, from the level of personal relations and issues’. Macdonald could barely contain his enthusiasm: these were ’the first practical suggestions for activity which seem to me to offer some possibility of taking us where we w ant to go’.87 Notes 1 Editorial, ’Liberal Anti-Communism Revisited: A Symposium’, Com­ mentary September 1967: 31. 2 Christina Scatamacchia, ‘The Flickering Candle: Dwight Macdonald, Politics and American Radicalism, 1944-1949’, diss., Bridgeport, 1973, 49-50; Nell Jumonville, ’The Gray Dawn: The New York Intellectuals and the Function of Criticism’, diss., Harvard, 1986, 104. 3 Dwight Macdonald, Prospectus for Politics, n.d. [probably autumn 1943], Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale. 4 George P. Elliott, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 18 August 1943, Mac­ donald Papers. 5 Paul Goodman, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably autumn 1943], Macdonald Papers; Harold Rosenberg, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 8 September n.y. [probably 1943], Macdonald Papers. 6 Lewis Coser, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 20 August 1943, Mac­ donald Papers.


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7 C. Wright Mills, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 5 November 1943, Macdonald Papers. 8 C. Wright Mills, letter to Dwight Macdonald. 10 October 1943, Mac­ donald Papers; C. Wright Mills, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 25 October 1943, Macdonald Papers. 9 William Barrett, The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals (New York: Doubleday. 1982) 89. 10 Dwight Macdonald, Prospectus for Politics, n.d. [probably autumn 1943], Macdonald Papers. 11 Politics’ chief British contributor was the poet, Journalist and anarchist George Woodcock, who during the 1940s edited a succession of Freedom Press magazines, including one, Now, whose life-span was practically Identical with that of Politics. After Now’s demise Macdonald lent Woodcock $1,000, enabling him to travel to and settle in Canada, where he later enjoyed national recognition (John Rodden, The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ’St George' Orwell (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) 157; Dwight Macdonald, letter to George Woodcock, 10 March 1949, Macdonald Papers). Macdonald also corresponded regularly with George Orwell, swopping political news and advice, and offering to perform a number of services in the US on Orwell’s behalf, such as advertising Animal Farm to American publishers (Dwight Macdonald, letter to George Orwell, 31 December 1945, Macdonald Papers). 12 Politics 4 (1947): 130-75. When Macdonald learned of the exist­ ence of a ’high-level’ anti-Gaullist, anti-Stalinist intellectual magazine, the Revolution Prolétarienne, he donated $50 towards its editorial costs, with the exhortation: ‘Your magazine must continue publication!’ Dwight Macdonald, letter to Robert Luzon, 27 March 1948, Macdonald Papers. 13 Jumonville, ‘New York Intellectuals’ 105-7; Scatamacchia, ’Dwight Macdonald’ 53. 14 Scatamacchia, ‘Dwight Macdonald’ 53. 15 Carol Gelderman, Mary McCarthy: A Life (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1989) 119; Mary McCarthy, preface, The Worm of Consciousness and Other Essays, by Nicola Chiaromonte (New York: Harcourt. 1976) xiv. 16 Dwight Macdonald, quoted in Scatamacchia, ‘Dwight Macdonald’ 54. 17 Scatamacchia, 'Dwight Macdonald’ 53. Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nlccolo Tucci, 27 August 1946, Macdonald Papers; Niccolo Tucci, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d., Macdonald Papers. 18 Lionel Abel, The Intellectual Follies: A Memoir of the literary Venture in New York and Paris (New York: Norton, 1984) 175. 19 Scatamacchia, ‘Dwight Macdonald' 51-2.

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20 Abel, Intellectual Follies 183. 21 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Mary McCarthy, 9 July 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 22 Dwight Macdonald, Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (New York: Farrar, 1957) 30. 23 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 6 January 1949, Macdonald Papers. 24 Nancy Macdonald, letter to editor of New York Post, 13 May 1946, Macdonald Papers. 25 Hannah Arendt, ‘He’s All Dwight’, New York Review of Books 1 Au­ gust 1968: 32. 26 Dwight Macdonald, draft statement, n.d. [probably 1948], Mac­ donald Papers. 27 Ruth Harper Mills, ‘The Fascinated Readers’, Politics 5 (1948): 59-63. 28 Dwight Macdonald, ‘The Questionnaire: Preliminary Report’, Poli­ tics 4 (1947): 123. 29 Macdonald, Memoirs 27. 30 Nathan Glick, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 24 November 1947, Macdonald Papers. 31 Arendt. ‘He’s All Dwight’ 33. 32 Stephen J. Whitfield, A Critical American: The Politics of Dwight Mac­ donald (Hamden: Archon, 1984) 43; George L. K. Morris, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 20 January n.y. [probably 1945], Macdonald Papers. 33 See above, chapter 1. 34 Roy Newquist, Counterpoint (London: George, Allen and Unwin, 1965) 447. 35 Barrett. Truants 90. 36 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Waldemar Gurian, 19 June 1947, Mac­ donald Papers. 37 It is interesting to note that the campaign against the American Jewish Committee protesting its notorious censure of Commentary after the magazine had published Isaac Rosenfeld’s controversial essay ‘Adam and Eve on Delancey Street’ was orchestrated by Dwight Macdonald. See Alexander Bloom Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) 163-4, and Stephen A. Longstaff, ‘The New York Intellectuals: A Study of Universalism and Particularism in American High Culture’, diss., UCLA, 1978, 324. 38 Dwight Macdonald, Prospectus for Politics, n.d. [probably autumn 1943], Macdonald Papers. 39 Whitfield, A Critical American 74-6.


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40 Dwight Macdonald, letter to John L. Daly, 3 April 1944, Macdonald Papers; Macdonald. Memoirs 26. 41 Mills, ‘Fascinated Readers’ 60. 42 Dwight Macdonald, letter to John L. Daly, 3 April 1944, Macdonald Papers. 43 Dwight Macdonald, ‘A Report to the Readers’, Politics 5 (1948): 58. 44 In 1945 the cost of printing 4,700 copies of an issue of Politics was slightly over $400. According to an estimated budget for PR for the same year, the cost of printing 5,500 copies of six bi-monthly issues was $5,400, or $900 an issue. Allowing for the difference in the number of copies of each issue printed. Politics' printing costs worked out at approximately half those of PR. Dorothy Brumm, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 22 July 1946, Macdonald Papers; Philip Rahv, letter to R. P. Blackmur, 20 April 1944, R. P. Blackmur Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. 45 Volunteer assistants did help Macdonald with editorial chores, esp­ ecially during the summer months, when he and his family quit Man­ hattan for Cape Cod; some of them even received payment for their services. Still, Politics' wage bill, compared with other magazines, was negligible. 46 Cliff Bennett, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 12 August 1947, Mac­ donald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers. 1 Dec­ ember 1944, Macdonald Papers. 47 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, 1 December 1944, Macdonald Papers. 48 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, 1 December 1944, Macdonald Papers. 49 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, n.d. [probably late autumn 1945], Macdonald Papers; Macdonald, ‘Report to Readers’ 58. 50 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, n.d. [probably late autumn 1945], Macdonald Papers. 51 Macdonald, Memoirs 27. 52 Bruno Bettelheim. ‘Behavior in Extreme Situations’, Politics 1 (1944): 199-209; Simone Weil, ‘The Iliad, or. The Poem of Force’, Politics 2 (1945): 321-31; Dwight Macdonald, ‘The Responsibility of Peoples’, Politics 2 (1945): 82-93; Dwight Macdonald, ‘Atrocities of the Mind’, Politics 2 (1945): 225-7. 53 Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988) 307. 54 Macdonald, Memoirs 27. 55 Macdonald, Memoirs 28.

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56 Dwight Macdonald, The Root Is Man’, Politics 3 (1946): 97-115, 194-214; Macdonald, Memoirs 29. 57 Macdonald, ’Root’ 97-115. See Whitfield, A Critical American 67-9 and Richard King, The Party of Eros: Radical Social Thought and the Realm of Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972) 39-40. 58 Macdonald, Memoirs 29. 59 Macdonald, Memoirs 28. 60 Barrett, Truants 193. 61 ‘The Politics of Illusion’, editorial, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 612. The rhetorical weapons which PR’s editors deployed against Macdonald were as revealing of their own prejudices as they were of his. Not only was his anarcho-pacifist position equated with religious mysticism, it was also identified with anti-intellectual nativist American populism. In his review essay ‘The Resistance’ William Barrett characterised Politics thus: 'Mr Dwight Macdonald manages to publish from the heart of New York a magazine, which for its crackerbox bluster, wide-eyed idealism, and ingenue dogmatism might just as well be put out at some tiny whistle-stop in Oklahoma.’ William Barrett, 'The Resistance’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 487. 62 Barrett, Truants 91-92. 63 See Macdonald, Memoirs 30. 64 Gregory Dean Sumner, ‘Window on the First New Left: Dwight Macdonald’s Politics Magazine, 1944-1949’, diss., Indiana, 1992, 24. 65 Sumner, ‘Window’ 24. 66 Macdonald, Memoirs 27. 67 Whitfield, A Critical American 48. 68 See Sumner, ‘Window’ chapters 5 and 6, and King, Party of Eros 34-9. 69 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (London: Seeker, 1983) 116-17. 70 Barrett, Truants 91. According to Barrett. William Phillips re­ marked à propos of Macdonald’s relationship with Chiaromonte: ‘Dwight is looking for a disciple who will tell him what to think.’ 71 For a very illuminating discussion of Caffi's thought, see Sumner, ‘Window’ 301-10. 72 McCarthy, preface to Chariomonte, Worm of Consciousness xiv; Gelderman, Mary McCarthy 122. 73 Chiaromonte, Worm of Consciousness 52. 74 Eileen Simpson, Poets in Their Youth: A Memoir (London: Faber, 1982) 163. 75 Gelderman, Mary McCarthy 124.


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76 Elisabeth Niebuhr, ‘An Interview with Mary McCarthy*. Paris Re­ view 27 (1962): 77. 77 Macdonald. Root’ 99. 198, 209-10. 78 Macdonald, Memoirs 29. 79 Irving Howe, ‘The Thirteenth Disciple’, Politics 3 (1946): 330. 80 This would be consistent with Macdonald’s support for the Bollingen award to Ezra Pound. See above, chapter 3. 81 See Sumner, ‘Window’ 263-75. 82 See Sumner. ‘Window’ 308-10 for a comparison of Caffi’s thought with Vaclav Havel’s. 83 Arendt, ‘He’s All Dwight’ 31; Whitfield, A Critical American chapter 10. A recent biography of Dwight Macdonald Is Michael Wreszln, A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald (New York: Basic Books, 1994). 84 See Sumner, ‘Window’ chapters 3 and 4. 85 Dwight Macdonald, ‘Free and Equal’, Politics 1 (1944): 23; Sumner, ‘Window’ 196. 86 Eric Lee, review of Politics, n.d. [probably 1951], Macdonald Papers. 87 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Albert Camus, 17 May 1946, Macdon­ ald Papers.

C h ap ter 6

An oasis: the New York Intellectuals in the late 19 4 0 s Dwight Macdonald and his friends were never to recapture the political optimism they felt on the Cape in 1945. In the years th at followed (heir hopes of constructing a viable radicalism for the post-W ar era were gradually disappointed. In 1948 their spirits lifted briefly when they succeeded in creating an organisation based on their idea of an international network of small radical commu­ nities, Europe-America Groups. But 4EAG’ failed to achieve even the most basic of its aims, and was dissolved after only a year of operation. Subsequently those involved in running it either enlisted in the nascent American Cultural Cold W ar effort, or withdrew from political engagement altogether in favour of an exclusive con­ cern w ith culture - a manoeuvre foreshadowed in 1949 by the appearance of Mary McCarthy’s novella The Oasis, a fictional record of the author’s political despair at the failure of EAG. The radical experiment of Macdonald and the other Politics Intel­ lectuals failed. Still this does not mean it should be ignored, as it has been by most historians of the New York Intellectual commu­ nity. For not only does the very fact of its failure tell us a great deal about the forces acting on the New York Intellectuals during the late 1940s, it also possesses considerable significance in its own right as the first attem pt of the post-W ar period to create a practical non-M arxist radical politics. The chief aim of this chapter therefore is to reconstruct the history of the Politics Intellectuals’ m ain prac­ tical achievement, EAG. Another aim is to analyse in some detail Mary McCarthy’s unfairly neglected story The Oasis, which is read in light of its political context as an allegory about radical failure. Before attem pting either of these, though, it is first necessary to review events during the period between the summer of 1945 and EAG’s launching in 1948, examining them for clues as to the causes of EAG’s eventual failure.


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I The first difficulty encountered by Macdonald as he sought to realise his vision of an international third camp was the inactivity of his main European collaborator» Albert Camus. It seems that after leaving America and returning to France Camus became so immersed in his own writing and domestic political activities that he was unable to devote any time to his proposals for an inter­ national magazine and network of fraternal communities.1 Meanwhile Macdonald ran into an even greater obstacle at home, namely the indifferent, if not actually hostile, response to his and his Mends’ suggestions w ithin the New York Intellectual community. After returning to New York in the autum n of 1945 he began organising a series of Politics discussion evenings in a Second Avenue lecture hall.2 Judging by the schedule of speakers, which included himself, Chiaromonte, Goodman and Lionel Abel, he Intended th at these meetings continue the discussions begun on the Cape during the summer. He probably also hoped th at other New York Intellectuals besides himself and McCarthy might be converted to Chiaromonte’s brand of pacifist anarchism . If so then he m ust have been disappointed. As Abel later recalled, the discus­ sions were attended by a motley collection of disoriented Commu­ nists and radical eccentrics.3 The few New York Intellectuals present were there, it seemed, only in order to make trouble. W hen Chiaromonte gave a lecture urging a return to the utopian hum anist values of the pre-Marxist socialists (which he later turned into a ‘New Roads’ Politics essay, ‘On the Kind of Socialism Called Scientific’),4 the discussion became extremely acrimonious. Meyer Schapiro warned the audience: ‘If you follow Chiaromonte tonight you won’t know w hat to do in a week, m onth or year, you w on’t even know w hat to do tomorrow m orning.’ James T. Farrell simply told Chiaromonte: ‘At least Marxism isn’t boring and you are.’5 Transplanted from summertime Cape Cod to w intry M anhattan, Chiaromonte’s radicalism withered and died. A similar reception awaited Macdonald’s ‘The Root Is M an’ (which, like ‘On the Kind of Socialism Called Scientific’, was based on a Second Avenue lecture paper, and was printed as part of th e ‘New Roads’ series). While prepared to recognise the merits of his journalistic writing, New York Intellectuals like Sidney Hook tended to view Macdonald’s theoretical performances with haughty

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


disdain.6Although Partisan Review’s editors did not deign to answer ‘The Root’ directly, an essay by Philip Rahv entitled ‘Disillusion­ ment and Partial Answers’ did include reference to ex-Communist intellectuals who had ‘taken cover in a position of absolute morality and grandiose utopianism, swapping Lenin and Trotsky for Tolstoy and Gandhi’, and alluded to Macdonald as having ‘no sooner done with Bolshevik Utopia, in its Trotskyite edition, than he began searching for a likely substitute among the odds and ends of older and even moldier Utopias’.7 Only Irving Howe bothered to reply to ‘The Root Is Man’ in print, and as has already been seen his re­ sponse was mainly dismissive. Why was it th at Chiaromonte’s radical individualism failed to capture the imaginations of the majority of New York Intellectuals, as it had those of Macdonald and Mary McCarthy? In an earlier discussion of the personal and intellectual conflict which troubled PR’s editorial board prior to Macdonald’s resignation in 1943, much emphasis was laid on such factors as the editors’ ethnicity and social origins. A distinction was drawn between two types of radicalism: one which was redolent of the imm igrant experience of social disadvantage and collective political activism, exemplified by the Jewish editors Rahv and Phillips, and another which suggested patrician moralistic dissent, reminiscent of indigenous traditions of individualistic protest, incarnated in this instance by the gentile Macdonald.8 In 1945 this distinction was detectible again. Macdonald’s deconversion from Marxism had liberated him to explore forms of radicalism more congenial to his innate moralism and individualism: accompanying him in this exploration was another gentile Intellectual, Mary McCarthy. Meanwhile the Jewish majority of New York Intellectuals (with some notable exceptions) remained committed to scientific, collectivist political principles, despite the fact that, granted their analysis of the political conditions which prevailed at the time, such principles stood little chance of being translated into practice. It has already been suggested th at the type of radicalism espoused and practised by the Jewish Intellectuals was determined principally by their personal and collective experience of social disadvantage and econ­ omic deprivation. It follows th at the level of their radical engage­ m ent would decline when their social and economic status improved, as it did in the post-W ar period. In any event most of the New York Intellectuals were by now


The political vanguard

preoccupied w ith another vanguardist cause. Throughout the first years of its existence the Intellectual community had spent as much of its political energy attacking Stalinism as it had promoting Marx­ ism. W ith the end of the Second World W ar and the resultant appearance of a power vacuum in Europe, the Intellectuals' antiStalinism became even more m ilitant. As the second half of the 1940s wore on veteran political infighters like Sidney Hook and James Burnham issued a series of increasingly urgent w arnings to their fellow Americans about Soviet intentions to expand into Eastern Europe. At the same time, they sought to counter the propa­ ganda of Communist-sympathisers in the US, which typically portrayed Soviet expansion as a defensive strategy designed to protect national security.9 A typical statem ent of Intellectual anti­ communism from this period was the 1946 PR editorial T he "Lib­ eral” Fifth Column*. In it PR's editors argued th at Stalin clearly had expansionist designs on Eastern Europe, yet the US government had singularly failed to oppose Soviet acts of aggression. The main reason for this official hesitancy, they suggested, was the influence exerted on American foreign policy by pro-Soviet liberals, readers of the Nation, for example, and supporters of the Progressive politician Henry Wallace, who together formed w hat was in effect a fifth column, 'a powerfully vocal lobby willing to override all concerns of international democracy and decency in the interests of a foreign power’. The international situation was such it did not m atter w hether these Communist-sympathisers were actually engaged in subversion or espionage: their political sympathies alone made them the equivalent of foreign agents. Hence as early as 1946 PR’s editors anticipated some of the argum ents about American Communists th at would be used to justify the anti-radical 'w itch-hunts’ of the 1950s (ironically the editorial contains an extraordinarily prophetic passage predicting th at pro-Soviet liberals 'would fall as the first victims of a terror of the Right as American public opinion becomes solidly mobilised against Russian aggressions’).10 For Dwight Macdonald, as for several other New York Intel­ lectuals, like the gentile dissident Mary McCarthy, older generation maverick Harold Rosenberg, and the young Trotskyist Irving Howe, pronouncements like these were deeply problematic; the major part of the Intellectual community, it seemed to this m inority sub-group, were becoming dangerously obsessed w ith hatred of

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s

16 7

Stalinism. Over-zealous anti-Communism spelt a num ber of dangers. First, it threatened to corrupt proper standards of intel­ lectual conduct. In 1944 Macdonald asked a correspondent whom he suspected of succumbing to ‘Stalinophobia’: How can one adopt such methods - slander, amalgams, hysterical and vulgar abuse, wild generalisations on the basis of scanty data - to fight the CP? It simply makes one into the image of w hat one fights.11 Second, and more im portant, the growing identification between anti-Communism and the American cause in the emergent Cold W ar threatened to compromise the New York Intellectuals' supremely valued independence. Macdonald and the m inority of like-minded Intellectuals worried th at their colleagues' willingness to advise and support American government foreign policy makers presaged a complete surrender to patriotism on the part of the Intellectual community. In Macdonald’s case this concern was compounded by his much cherished pacifism. On more than one occasion he challenged PR’s editors to state frankly w hat position they would take should the US decide to use military force against Communist Russia.12 Third, Macdonald shared PR’s editors’ per­ ception th at an anti-radical scare was imminent, but viewed this prospect w ith rather less equanimity than they did. In 1947 he wrote telling Daniel Bell that: Harold Rosenberg believes th at the Burnham-PR-New Leader set is even more of a threat to decency and sanity on the left today than the Commies were in the 30s. I think this is exaggerated, but certainly the neurotic intensity w ith which those circles pursue a hate-Russia policy is making it easier for the black rightists to push this country still further towards something damned unpleasant - as in the red purge now projected in govt offices.13 Finally, and most regrettably from Macdonald’s point of view, the New York Intellectuals’ growing preoccupation w ith Stalinism and Soviet expansion was distracting them from w hat in his view was their proper business, finding a radical way forward. On the other hand, it is possible to overstate the extent of the division between Macdonald and his former colleagues on PR regarding Stalinism. After all there were many points on which


The political vanguard

PR and Politics agreed - for example, both magazines subscribed to the view th at the structure of Soviet society represented an historically unprecedented phenomenon. Also, polemical ex­ changes between the editors were not as rancorous as one might expect (as Irving Howe observed amusedly in the pages of the New International: ‘Relations are bad between these political Held­ enkampfer but they do have a few good words to say for each other’).14 Most significantly, Macdonald himself was not immune to the contagion of Stalinophobia. Indeed, few members of the New York Intellectual community were more m ilitant in their anti-Stalinism than His one-man campaign against the ’fellow-travelling’ Democrat Henry Wallace is a case in point. In 1947 Macdonald printed a withering two-part muck-raking profile of Wallace in Politics (which he pub­ lished in book form the following year).16 When, late in December 1947, the former Vice-President announced his intention of run­ ning for the Presidency on a third-party. Progressive ticket, Mac­ donald embarked on a lecture tour of colleges in the east and the mid-west, intending (as he told George Orwell) ’to expose the m an’s lies and demagogy, and the almost 100% commie [sic] entourage which writes his speeches’.17 Macdonald returned from this tour more determined than ever to fight w hat he called the ’Soviet Myth’. In a spring 1948 Politics piece, ’USA v. USSR’, he reported his dismay at the large num ber of ’neo-Stalinists’ he had encountered on American college cam­ puses, students who defended the Soviet Union with a peculiarly repugnant mixture of cynicism and sentimentality. According to Macdonald the only way to combat this sort of wilful self-delusion was 'to tell the truth about USSR, w ithout suppression and with­ out compromise’. The most effective way to do this, he believed, was to compare and contrast conditions in the Soviet Union and the US. True, capitalist America remained in many im portant re­ spects an undemocratic society; but compared w ith Communist Russia it was heaven on earth. The Soviet Union, Macdonald ar­ gued, was exceptionally, indeed uniquely, imperialistic, militaristic and repressive. Hence, despite his complaints about his former colleagues’ excessive hatred of Stalinism, Macdonald himself was quite capable of hardline anti-Soviet statem ents; indeed ’USA v. USSR’ would not have looked out of place as an editorial comment in PR. As Macdonald explained, in a typically self-reflexive passage,

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


he had ‘come to think th at [he had] seriously underestimated the evils of Stalinism’.18 As his anti-Stalinism waxed, so Macdonald’s pacifism gradually waned. A series of events in early 1948 - the assassination of pacifist hero Mahatma Gandhi, the Communist coup in Czechoslo­ vakia in February, and in particular the commencement of the Soviet blockade of Berlin - all combined to convince Macdonald th at it was no longer possible to occupy an absolutely pacifist position. W hen the editor of an anarcho-pacifist magazine ap­ proached him requesting th at he print a letter critical of PR’s edi­ tors’ ’war-mongering’ rhetoric which Philip Rahv had refused to carry in PR, Macdonald responded: Hate to agree with Rahv in anything, but I’m not sure the letter was worth printing in PR, and I know I don’t w ant to use it in Politics . . . You show the unsatisfactory nature of the PR . . . position, but th at’s not new . . . But w hat about our position?. . . [S]houldn’t one at least try to answer the PR objections to it - and more serious objections than PR ever thought of? You write as if all was OK w ith our side; I cannot agree.19 Macdonald was, as he admitted both privately and publicly, in a dilemma.20 To sum up, then, Macdonald met w ith a num ber of difficulties as he sought to enact his new radical programme. His main over­ seas collaborator proved to be unreliable, while his fellow New York Intellectuals showed themselves unwilling to entertain even the suggestion of a radicalism th at was not Marxist, and were in any case so distracted by the threat of Soviet expansion th at they had almost entirely lost interest in other political issues. Indeed Macdonald himself was enough of an anti-Stalinist to be distracted by the escalating Cold W ar from the task of rethinking radicalism. Moreover, as the stark binary oppositions of ’US v. USSR’ indicated, he was himself increasingly tending to think in the dualistic, bipolar terms of Cold W ar logic, a logic which required intellectuals to make a choice between two opposites, and thereby denied the legiti­ macy, or possibility, of a third camp position. Meanwhile his position as an independent, detached intellectual was being gradu­ ally eroded by the same sort of recuperative, hegemonic forces that beset PR’s editors around mid-century.


The political vanguard

This last point is perhaps best illustrated by resuming the narrative of Politics’ m aterial history begun in the previous chapter. In 1945, with an operating deficit of less than a thousand dollars, Macdonald had begun to hope th at Politics might break even. In fact this was as close to self-sufficiency as the magazine ever came. Over the course of the next year production costs rose steadily; the printer's bill alone almost doubled.21 At the same time, and despite increased efforts at promotion, subscriptions declined, probably due to the sharp post-W ar increase in inflation.22 'Some fell blight has certainly fallen on the mag’s circulatory system,' remarked Mac­ donald, 'and we’ll have to doctor it pretty quick or the mag will suffocate to death.’23 By the end of the year, the need for some remedy was urgent. 'W e’ve gone down from 5,500 [readers] last spring to 5,000 now,’ Macdonald told a correspondent in Decem­ ber, 'not a big drop but enough, w hat w ith rising costs, to cause a financial crisis.’24 The dimensions of this crisis were only fully revealed when the Macdonalds calculated Politics’ deficit for 1946: $6,041, over $5,000 more than was lost the previous year.25 By 1947 Macdonald had despaired of making Politics financially independent, and reconciled himself to the inevitability of operating deficits. From th at point on he confined his ambitions for Politics to the normal concerns of editors of non-commercial magazines, th at is driving down production costs and consolidating readership (rather than striving to increase it indefinitely).26 Then, early in 1947, he considerably reduced Politics’ base of operation by con­ verting it from a monthly into a bi-monthly publication. Not only had monthly publication ceased to be financially viable, Macdonald was, he admitted later, ‘somewhat jaded’ by the demands of editing a magazine on his own. The hectic scramble to meet m onthly deadlines was making is increasingly difficult for him to plan Politics 'decently (let alone read or think)’.27 In the autum n of 1947, these various difficulties and frustrations eventually took their toll, and Macdonald fell into a deep depres­ sion. W riting to a friend, he complained: I’m really dismal these days; everything looks stale and black; the papers are unbearable; and I seem myself to be going through some kind of emotional and spiritual change (or breakup?). Anyway, I feel low as hell, and everything is a great effort. . . I’m beginning to understand w hat it m ust mean to a religious person to lose his faith.28

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


The July-A ugust issue of Politics appeared late; the SeptemberOctober number did not appear at all. In a letter circularised to his subscribers in December, Macdonald apologised for Politics’ de facto suspension, blaming his own demoralisation and the ‘ever bleaker and blacker political outlook’, and promising th at publication would resume again the following year, on a quarterly basis.29 True to his word, Macdonald did get out an issue of Politics in February 1948. In it, he announced that he intended to return to monthly publication the following year, by which time he also hoped to have involved others in the work of planning and editing the magazine. He was, he explained, feeling ‘more cheerful (or at least energetic)’.30Why his depression had lifted, Macdonald could not tell for certain. ‘[N]ot because the political situation is better - it is much worse,’ he told a French acquaintance, ‘but because, perhaps, I have lost my last illusions and am able to adopt a more stoical attitude; or perhaps for other, purely psychological, reasons.’31 In any case, it was now that Macdonald made a firm decision to revive the notion of an international network of fraternal communities which Camus had first proposed in the summer of 1945. U In March and April of 1948 a series of meetings was held at Mac­ donald’s M anhattan apartm ent, from which a definite plan emerged for the creation of the organisation called Europe-America Groups. It was clear from the outset th at EAG was an initiative of the intellectual community which had formed on Cape Cod in the summer of 1945. On 28 March Mary McCarthy was elected to the organisation’s chair, and her husband Bowden Broadwater and friend, the novelist Elizabeth Hardwick, appointed co-secretaries. At the same meeting McCarthy donated $500 to EAG’s treasury, and the Macdonalds $75.32 On 11 April Nicola Chiaromonte was entrusted w ith three-quarters of the monies in the treasury to spend as he saw fit in the course of an overseas tour he was shortly to undertake ‘as [EAG’s] European representative’.33 Moreover, the new organisation’s manifesto clearly reflected the Politics Intellectuals’ particular values and concerns, not least in its rejection of national and party politics, and its emphasis on the viability of an internationalist third position. It began by describing EAG as ‘a group of people from many intellectual professions who


The political vanguard

have gotten together to provide some center of solidarity with and support for intellectuals in Europe who find themselves outside the mass parties'. It went on to explain how the upheavals caused by the War, and the recent rise of a bipolar international order, had left independent European leftists feeling both lonely and de­ moralised. Even American intellectuals, for th at m atter, 'find our­ selves unable to make our opposition, real as it is to us, felt in any practical way'. The purpose of EAG, the manifesto continued, was to combat the distress and desperation of 'dissident Europeans’ by showing th at others shared their love of ‘certain basic ideas of freedom and social equity'. The restoration of international com­ m unication, 'the creation of w hat Albert Camus calls a "commu­ nity of dialogue"’, would, it was hoped, prepare the way for the emergence of 'th at new force on the democratic left whose absence is so acutely felt everywhere’. The manifesto was signed by, amongst others, Macdonald, McCarthy, Chiaromonte, Niccolo Tucci, Alfred Kazin, Isaac Rosenfeld, Sidney Hook, and all four of PR’s editors (Rahv, Phillips, William Barrett and Delmore Schwartz).34 Having thus defined their principles and aims, EAG’s officers turned their attention to fund-raising. A lecture at the Rand School by the émigré Russian composer Nicholas Nabokov on 'The Soviet Attack on Culture’, chaired by McCarthy and followed by a panel debate by Macdonald, Meyer Schapiro and Lionel Trilling, netted the organisation $300.35 Other events included an auction of such literary souvenirs as the m anuscript of Delmore Schwartz’s debut work In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and a cancelled cheque of T. S. Eliot’s, donated by the editors of PR.36By the end of the spring, when formal activities were suspended for the summer m onths, EAG had funds of more than S2.000.37 Considering th at EAG was so obviously the creation of the Politics Intellectuals McCarthy, Macdonald and Chiaromonte, the fact th at PR’s editors and their political m entor Sidney Hook not only signed the new organisation’s manifesto but also helped raise funds for it requires some explanation. One thing is clear: the PR/Hook faction had not been converted to the Cape Intellectuals’ new brand of radicalism. May 1948 saw the publication of Rahv’s essay 'Dis­ illusionment and Partial Answers’, in which the PR editor explicitly denounced Macdonald’s ‘grandiose utopianism ’.38 Not surpris­ ingly, Rahv’s first impulse towards EAG, as described by Lionel

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


Trilling, was to dismiss it ‘w ith contem pt’.39 Nevertheless, shortly afterwards, he and his colleagues agreed to join the new organis­ ation - albeit ‘grudgingly’ and w ithout volunteering ’even five dollars’ w orth of help’.40 The most probable explanation for the PK/Hook faction’s decision to support Macdonald in his new venture was th at they entertained hopes of turning SAG into a weapon w ith which to fight Stalinism. In ‘Disillusionment and Partial Answers’, after dis­ posing of Macdonald’s (and several others’) political views, Rahv announced his own recommendations for future political action. Arguing from the standpoint of a chastened socialist, he insisted th at the Stalinist threat to the west was so great th at the forces of social democracy (which included intellectuals like himself) should unite w ith the American government in a front against Soviet expansion. W arming to his theme, Rahv proposed the creation of a federal union of European democratic socialist governments allied w ith the US. This federation, he explained, would not only be capable of m ounting an effective military response to Soviet aggression, but would also expedite the spread of genuine socialism in the west.41 Judging by these suggestions - which were, it might be said, no less grandiose than many contained in ‘The Root Is Man’ - Rahv and his friends perceived BAG as a potential bulwark against the further Stalinisation of the west. After all, there were strong similarities between Rahv’s proposals for trans-A tlantic co­ operation between anti-Stalinist socialist intellectuals and many of EAG’s aims, as stated in its manifesto. The new organisation must have seemed promising to the Hook/PR faction - all th at was needed to make it really effective, for their purposes, was for it to concentrate single-mindedly on the Communist issue. Although it is likely th at Rahv and others pretended to share the more positive aims of EAG’s officers - according to Trilling, they ‘made a virtue’ of joining the organisation42 - it was not long before their true intentions were revealed. W hen plans were being laid for Nabokov’s Rand School lecture, Rahv suggested th at EAG picket the Soviet Embassy in protest at Stalinist violations of cul­ tural freedom.43 This proposal was rejected by the organisation’s officers. Realising th at they could not convert EAG to their purposes by democratic means. Hook and PR’s editors resorted to subteifiige. Late in the spring of 1948, they called a meeting of EAG at Rahv’s house, ostensibly to dissolve the organisation for the summer and


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disburse its funds to Chiaromonte. In reality, as Mary McCarthy later recalled, ‘they planned to be in the majority and vote to transfer our treasury to some other entity*. Suspecting some such mischief, McCarthy contacted members of EAG who did not nor­ mally attend such meetings, like her brother, the actor Kevin McCarthy, and his friend Montgomery Clift, and persuaded them to go to Rahv‘s house. Many years later McCarthy still remembered ‘the faces of Hook and company when they looked around Rahv’s living room and realised they were not in the m ajority’. The at­ tempted coup failed, and the treasury funds were disbursed as origi­ nally planned.44 W ith their fund-raising activities in America suspended until autum n, EAG’s officers shifted their attention to Europe, where Nicola and Miriam Chiaromonte were embarking on the French leg of their tour as the organisation’s European representatives. Shortly after arriving in Paris, the Chiaromontes contacted Albert Camus, who was able to introduce them to other non-Stalinist leftist intellectuals. As well as advertising EAG to potential French collabo­ rators, the Chiaromontes busied themselves dispensing money to various deserving individuals and ventures, who in this instance included several earlier recipients of gifts from the Macdonalds, such as Caffi, and the magazine Revolution Prolétarienne.4S W hen the Chiaromontes wrote to Mary McCarthy, in her capa­ city as EAG’s chair, describing the expectations which their tour had aroused, she was both moved and perturbed. In a letter to Macdonald, she described her ‘shame at the seriousness of the European response to our very trivial and muddling efforts’. The Chiaromontes’ letters, she felt, proved 'our American political con­ dition to be appallingly inert and footless’. It was imperative, there­ fore, th at EAG not only intensify its efforts to furnish European intellectuals w ith information and aid, but also take steps to clarify its principles and objectives. The organisation must, for example, ‘raise the military question and answer it’. This need not m ean th at it subscribe to a philosophy of pacifism; merely th at it oppose ‘the militarization of Europe and of the United States . . . and the whole Psychology of Preparedness exemplified in the P. R. editorial board’. W hat McCarthy proposed specifically was th at EAG print a series of ‘Europe-America Bulletins’, and, as from autum n, a regular ‘Letter to Europe’; also th at it redraft its statem ent of aims so as to make it at once more specific and more radical.46

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Macdonald’s response to these suggestions was unenthusiastic. As he explained to McCarthy, he was by now so familiar with the attitudes of European intellectuals that, although he was impressed by the Chiaromontes’ reports, he was not particularly moved by them. ’I mean I don't feel any more morally spurred to action than I already felt.’ More importantly, he was by this stage if anything less clear in his own mind about 'w hat BAG could and should do’: Communal living, small group activity, opposition to and evasion from the State, [anti-] militarism, etc. - all these things . . . we surely knew . . . a long time ago. As regards McCarthy’s specific proposals, Macdonald doubted the wisdom of EAG’s officers committing themselves to a more radical statem ent of aims. The immediate effect of such a move would be to foreclose the possibility of the officers reaching 'an agreement w ith Hook and the Boys [PR’s editors]’.47 Perhaps discouraged by Macdonald’s response to her sugges­ tions, McCarthy contributed little to subsequent discussion of EAG’s role and aims, preferring instead to occupy her time writing a fictionalised account of the organisation’s past activities.48 It was therefore left to Macdonald and Chiaromonte to chart EAG’s future on their own. In contrast with McCarthy, Chiaromonte tended to agree w ith Macdonald th at the organisation should avoid adopting too radical an identity: I wouldn’t dream of making the Groups into an organisation for the furtherance of the small group idea. Shall we say that it should function like a 'federation', w ith a few basic principles common to all. Nevertheless, Chiaromonte insisted on a minimum degree of ideal­ ism. For example, BAG m ust avoid identifying too uncritically with the American cause in the Cold War. To do so would be to risk betraying its libertarian and internationalist principles. On no ac­ count should EAG’s officers follow the example of Hook and PR’s editors in enshrining expedient tactical alliances as principles of political practice. Also they should refuse to obey A rthur Koestler’s recent injunction to western intellectuals th at they choose between the Grey of capitalist democracy and the Black of Communist totalitarianism : Choosing the Grey is an impossible step, as long as one


The political vanguard

believes in the reality of hum an conscience, which, as long as it exists, can submit to the lesser Evil (no philosophy is needed for that) but not choose it.49 Macdonald had difficulty accepting even this formulation of EAG’s principles. However desirable, aloofness from the struggle between the Grey and the Black seemed to him practically impossible. In a letter to his erstwhile political mentor, Macdonald confessed: I’m coming to believe t h a t . . . extreme positions like pacifism . . . no longer are rational, in political terms, today . . . So there seem two alternatives: (1) turn one’s back on politics; (2) if one continues to relate one’s self to politics, then do so w ithin the bounds of w hat is possible today, right now or in the near future, th at is, to cease applying ultim atist standards to political actions . . . In short, political questions seem more insoluble than ever.50 Neither were the three principal movers behind EAG any more united over the question of how to deal with the threat posed the organisation by Hook and PR’s editors. Macdonald, as already noted, advised the officers to tread carefully, in order to avoid a schism. However, he also recommended that, when EAG re­ convened in the autum n, ‘“our” set’ should seize the initiative in organising discussion groups and public meetings.51 McCarthy, in contrast, urged ’splitting EAG and sloughing off the PR-Hook crowd’. In her opinion, neither tendency stood to gain anything from continued association with the other. ’[T]hey only discredit us’, she told Macdonald, ‘while feeling compromised by their con­ nection.’52 Chiaromonte, on the other hand, believed th at EAG’s officers should do everything in their power to avert a split. His position on the issue was at once pragmatic and optimistic. If a split was unavoidable, then McCarthy and Macdonald should w ait for Hook and PR’s editors to initiate it. In the meantime, however, they should try to convince ‘the Boys. . . th at they have no ideas’.53 The autum n of 1948, then, found EAG’s officers in various states of disenchantm ent w ith radical theory and disengagement from radical practice, and no nearer a resolution of the problem of the Hook/PR faction. Nor can it have helped th at Nicola Chiaromonte, their chief source of personal inspiration, and probably the only individual among them who possessed a clear notion of a practi­ cable radical programme, was still absent on his tour of Europe.

A n oasis: the ¡ate 1 9 4 0 s


(By this stage, the Chiaromontes had arrived in Italy, having left Albert Camus in charge of EAG’s affairs in France.)54 The first autum n meeting of BAG was held on 20 October, and was attended by about twenty members, including Hook and PR's editors. Discussion soon turned to the organisation’s position w ith regard to Stalinism, whereupon an argum ent began. Macdonald and McCarthy proposed th at BAG should continue to channel most of its funds towards intellectual groups in France and Italy. Hook and PR’s editors, however, were of the opinion th at the organisation should target anti-Communist intellectuals in Eastern Europe and Germany, as they were more im portant in the fight against Stalinism. After appointing a subcommittee to draft a new state­ ment of aims (so as to emphasise EAG’s independence from US government agencies), the meeting broke up in a spirit of rancour.” Subsequently the organisation entered a period of rapid decline. Early in December Macdonald wrote to Chiaromonte to inform him th at ’BAG is currently (and has been since last spring) m oribund’: [T]he whole fall was wasted in a series of talky-talk meetings of the in-group where action was stymied by differences between Mary-me and PR-Hook factions. All that had been achieved during this period was the drafting of an ’unexceptionable’ but ’dull’ statem ent of aims. Macdonald laid some of the blame for this state of affairs on EAG’s officers, particu­ larly McCarthy, who had proven ’mostly sparkless and lethargic (partly because of the dreary tension w ith the PR get-Russia-at-allcosts attitude)’.56 Albert Camus, for th at m atter, appeared to have neglected his duties entirely.57 However, Macdonald reckoned that the main cause of EAG’s demise was its members’ lack of friendly feelings for each another. W ithout such feelings, an organisation of its kind was bound to be unable to function properly. ’Unless EAG is a fraternal, communal group, it is nothing.’58 For the time being, all the officers could do was w ait to see how the redrafted manifesto was received. If the response was especially encouraging, then they would attem pt to resucítate the organisation: if not, they would ’inter it decently’. Macdonald himself was not unduly both­ ered by the latter prospect. After all, EAG’s aims were, as he pointed out, very like those of Politics; as long as he continued to publish his magazine, and Nancy Macdonald carried on her relief pro­ gramme, the organisation would probably not be much missed.59


The political vanguard

Chiaromonte viewed the dissolution of BAG w ith much less equanimity than Macdonald, urging that, even if it could not survive in its present form, its American officers ‘at least [keep] the formula alive’ by forming ‘a fraternal small band’ in America.60 Macdonald rejected this idea. Apart from anything else, he could not think of any American intellectuals, except for McCarthy and a few others, with whom he ‘wanted to plunge into brotherhood’. Besides, the intellectual atmosphere, at least in New York, was not congenial to the formation of a small band of the sort Chiaromonte envisioned. Personally, Macdonald was quite content ‘working and thinking and writing in my own individualistic way’.61 Despite Chiaromonte’s pleas, BAG was wound down in the spring of 1949. Its last act, at a meeting held early in May, was to vote the few funds remaining in its treasury to the Politics contributor, Anton Ciliga, so th at he could send his son to school.62 Chiaromonte never returned to the US from his tour of Europe, choosing instead to rem ain in France where he took a Job as a UNESCO official. To modify Irving Howe’s phrase, the Italian anarchist was apparently resigned to the fact th at he had failed to plant a new radical politics in American soil.63

m The demise of EAG coincided with a mild sensation in the New York Intellectual community, caused by the publication of The Oasis, the novella w ritten the previous summer by Mazy McCarthy.64 Like most fiction w ritten by New York Intellectuals, The Oasis was a roman à clef. Its story concerns the travails and vagaries of a group of intellectuals from New York conducting an experiment in communal living in the grounds of a disused hotel in rural Vermont, shortly after the end of the Second World W ar. At first ‘Utopia’, as the community is called, enjoys a large measure of success. Increasingly, however, its survival is threatened by the factionalism of its members. The ‘purists’, led by Macdougal Macdermott and Katy Norell, believe in the possibility of moral regener­ ation through purposeful actions, specifically the sort of fraternal, non-violent and libertarian actions advocated by their teacher, Monteverdi, an Italian anarchist. Naturally, therefore, they are hopeful that the utopian experiment will succeed. The ‘realists’, in contrast, follow their leader Will Taub in rejecting the notion th a t

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


hum an beings can transcend the conditioning influences of history, individual psychology and so on. Consequently they are less con­ cerned than the purists about the colony’s survival. Indeed they have agreed to join it only out of a kind of sceptical curiosity. Inhibited by the negativism of the realists, and confounded by practical difficulties, the purists struggle to preserve Utopia from disintegration. The correspondences between this narrative and the history of EÁG are obvious. Macdougal Macdermott, Katy Norell and Will Taub are fictional portraits of, respectively, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy and Philip Rahv. In each case, the character is described with such a wealth of authentic personal detail as to leave no room for doubt about the identity of its model.65 Moreover, there are num erous highly specific references to particular events in EAG’s history. For example, Monteverdi, the lum inary of the purist camp, is stranded in Europe, and therefore cannot participate in the utopian experiment; his presence is sorely missed by the purists. The parallel w ith Chiaromonte’s absence from the US in 1948, and the resulting demoralisation of EAG’s officers, hardly needs stating. The list of correspondences could be extended.66 However, it is enough for present purposes merely to note th at The Oasis is a fictionalised account of the history of BAG. The Oasis met with a hostile reception in the New York Intel­ lectual community, and for several years after its publication McCarthy was, as Alfred Kazin phrased it, ’ostracized’ by her col­ leagues.67 Most Intellectuals, noting the satirical treatm ent of the Rahv/Taub character, interpreted the novel as a crude attem pt by its author to get back at the PR/Hook faction for their part in EAG’s demise. For example, Saul Bellow and Harold Kaplan condemned it as the product of ’a bewildered and pathological vengeful­ ness’.68 Not even McCarthy’s loyalest friends were prepared to de­ fend The Oasis. ’Mary is certainly a brilliant girl’, Chiaromonte remarked to Macdonald, ’but why she should be so hopelessly literal I can’t understand.’69 Macdonald reckoned th at the ’most serious criticism I’ve heard is th at the people caricatured cannot learn anything about themselves and their weaknesses from it; as one, I have to agree’.70 This last comment is suggestive. Later in her literary career, McCarthy was to tell an interviewer that, of her satirical works of fiction, ’the only one th at aimed at the moral reform of its targets,


The political vanguard

if th at is the word, was The Oasis'. To judge by Macdonald’s complaint th at he could not ’learn anything’ about himself from the character of Macdermott, it would seem th at McCarthy had failed in this aim. However, as she w ent on to explain, it was not the purist leader she had m eant to reform - ’Macdermott is incorrigible’; rather it was the realist faction. ‘I really think I hoped to show them . . . how they looked and sounded exposed on a m ountaintop.’71 While it is impossible to disentangle her presumably hostile feelings towards her factional enemies amongst the members of EAG from her professed desire to ‘reform’ them, we should at least grant the possibility th at McCarthy was not merely bent on revenge when she wrote The Oasis. For example, her fictional portrait of Rahv, dismissed by Bellow and Kaplan as a ‘stupid caricature’, is arguably as insightful, even as sympathetic, an account of the critic’s ‘ingenious psychology’ as any th at has since appeared in memoir or biography.72 (Despite his cynicism and machiavellianism, Taub is privately a deeply sentim ental man, rom antically fascinated by his object-world, and secretly enthralled by grand schemes for social change.) More significantly, it is possible to discern running throughout The Oasis a nuanced and incisive crit­ ique of the radically pessimistic theoretical position occupied by PR’s editors during the late 1940s. The following passage, in w hich McCarthy describes the personal and ideological background of the realist faction, is typical: The dictators of a small circle of literary and political thinkers, they had assumed the habit of authority by simply adjusting themselves to events. Though they had long been inactive politically and their materialism had hardened into a railing cynicism, they still retained from their Leninist days a notion of themselves as a revolutionary elite whose correct­ ness in political theory allowed them the widest latitude in personal practice. The misdeeds which they obstinately defended against the attacks of ‘morality’ were, as a m atter of fact, of the most trivial and commonplace character, quite lacking in social élan, yet the faction was committed to these failings as if to a higher principle. They could not repent them, though repentance might have afforded relief, and they could not embark openly upon a new course of conduct, lest their whole past, in this light, appear unjustified. They were

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


thus in a desperate situation, for their position, while unassailable from without, offered no egress either.73 For its'pithiness and pungency, this commentary on the internal contradictions of PR’s dead-end, ’saving rem nant’ vanguardism is hard to beat. Indeed, it is possible th at the intensity of ’the boys” reaction to The Oasis was partly due to the acuity of McCarthy’s theoretical critique of them .74 In any case, it is made abundantly clear in the course of the story th at the realists are not solely responsible for the problems of Utopia. At a series of critical junctures in the narrative, when an emergency threatens the survival of the colony, the purists dem onstrate their inability to translate the principles of their teacher, Monteverdi, into practice. They fail to set a moral example, thus effectively conceding their case to the realists. The least severe of these crises are precipitated by the actions of one of the colonists, Joe Loucheim, a leather goods m anufacturer at odds w ith the bohemian and alienated ambience of Utopia, whom the other colonists regard as ’a well-intentioned Babbitt’.75 Loucheim’s dram atic function is to represent the basic individualistic urge of American society and culture. He is the archetypal capitalist monad, a personification of the social ‘reality’ which Utopia is attem pting to transcend. It is significant th at he is first glimpsed literally marking the colony on a map after he has just explained the etymological derivation of the word Utopia (’Notaplace, get it?’) to his wife. “’Look’’, he said. “Next year Socony [Automobile Guide] will have it, right between Shaker Village and the birthplace of Stephen A. Douglas.”’76 This image suggests the futility of the Uto­ pians’ desire to detach themselves from society, as well as capital­ ism’s ability to recuperate separatist intellectual movements. Throughout the narrative Loucheim sets the purists symbolic tests. Macdougal Macdermott almost repudiates the central premise of the purist philosophy, the claim th at hum an beings are capable of moral regeneration, by opposing Loucheim’s admission into Utopia, and is only saved from this disastrous mistake by his in­ consistency in argum ent. W ithin a day of his arrival in Utopia, Loucheim indirectly causes an accident in the colony’s kitchen, as a result of which Katy Norell suffers slight burns. Although Norell knows th at it would ease tensions w ithin the community if she accepted the blame for the mishap, she is prevented from doing so by her fear of appearing foolish in public. Despite her purist


The political vanguard

principles, she is incapable of performing the simplest principled action. In light of this incident, it is to the purists’ credit that, when the realist faction gets up a movement to expel Loucheim from Utopia (the m anufacturer has also suceeded in antagonising Will Taub), they rally to his defence. However, the realists are defeated as much by their own habitual cautiousness as by the opposition of the purists. The purists barely pass the tests set them by Loucheim. They fail utterly when, in the dram atic climax of the story, reality intrudes upon their idyllic existence in the more threatening form of a family of poor farmers poaching fruit in the hotel’s grounds. Katy Norrell (the McCarthy figure) politely asks the farmers to leave some fruit for the colonists; first they ignore her, then abuse her. The impli­ cation is clear: in a ‘real’ situation, the purist philosophy is useless as a guide to action. W ithout consulting the other Utopians. Norell’s husband and a young veteran take a rifle from Joe Loucheim’s room and brandish it at the poachers; this time they leave. By resorting to coercion, the two men have repelled an immediate threat to Utopia, but at w hat cost? Called upon to dem onstrate their principles in action, the colonists have merely acted like outraged bourgeois property-holders. Significantly it is Loucheim who is most shocked by w hat has happened. Recognising his rifle, which he had intended for use only In harmless target practice, he ostentatiously fetches a padlock from the colony’s toolshed and declares: ‘This is going on the door of my room.’77 By this stage, the capitalist is thoroughly disillusioned w ith the venture in which he had at first invested such hope; one would not be surprised if he asked for his money back. Later th at day, during a picnic, Norrell becomes ‘disagreeably drunk’78 and drifts into a fitful, uneasy sleep, in which she dreams of the colonists packing their belongings and leaving Utopia. It should be apparent by now that, as well as being a fictional critique of the ‘realists” revolutionary pessimism, The Oasis is also a painful personal confession of the impracticality of the purist pro­ gramme. Perceiving this, the Trotskyist historian Alan Wald, in his landmark 1987 study of the New York Intellectuals,79 suggests th at (to summarise his argum ent rather crudely) McCarthy’s novella is basically a fictional polemic against political radicalism, w ritten by a disenchanted ex-radical. There are, he points out, striking struc­ tural and thematic similarities between The Oasis and other works of

A n oasis: the late 1 9 4 0 s


political fiction by deradicalised New York Intellectuals dating from the same period, such as Lionel Trilling's The Middle of the Jour­ ney.80 Both The Oasis and The Middle of the Journey are set in rural locales, and the plots of both are constructed around a series of crises which dramatise conflicting intellectual viewpoints. Moreover, McCarthy's story appears to be advancing the same philosophical claim as Trilling's, that political ideology is unequal to the task of apprehending the complexity and variety of lived experience. Such derogation of ideology is, Wald reminds us, a tell-tale symptom of deradicalisation. Finally, The Oasis shares with The Middle of the Jour­ ney a strangely illusory quality. The idyllic rural settings of the two books, 'quite atypical for the United States in the mid-twentieth century', make the stories 'less convincing'. Hence although McCarthy and Trilling intend to show how immersion in experience unveils the distortions and fabrications of ideology, 'the "experience" in which the[ir] characters are educated is [itself] false and simpli­ fied’.81 McCarthy, Wald implies, was in an advanced state of ideo­ logical mystification when she wrote The Oasis. The similarities between the settings and narrative structures of The Oasis and The Middle of the Journey are certainly very striking. Also, the constant failure of the purist faction to cope w ith 'real' situations does suggest th at McCarthy was seeking to establish an opposition between ideology and experience. Still, it does not necessarily follow from this th at McCarthy’s and Trilling's political positions were identical, or even th at McCarthy intended to privilege experience over ideology. Significantly, The Oasis presents a far less positive view of deradicalisation than The Middle of the Journey. Like m uch of his earlier fiction, Trilling’s novel portrays deradicalisation as a salutary and liberating experience.82 Political moderation is constantly equated w ith personal m aturity. John Laskell, the story’s deradicalised hero, and Trilling’s alter ego, is an exemplar of political wisdom and a model for political action. In The Oasis, in contrast, the disappointment of radical hopes is accompanied by despair and anguish. W hen eventually Katy Norrell, the McCarthy figure, admits the impracticality of the purist philosophy - having realised th at it is impossible to embody virtue at the individual, let alone the communal, level - she is, as Wald himself observes, 'unable to substantiate a new orientation, returning at the end to the dream-like world of alienation’.83 Moreover, Wald’s assertion th at the idyllic locale of The Oasis


The political vanguard

conflicts with the book’s philosophical claims is disputable. While this may well be true of The Middle of the Journey, the illusory quality Wald detects in McCarthy’s novella is a deliberate literary effect, entirely harm onious with the work’s philosophical elements. McCarthy herself was fully conscious of the unreality of Utopia. In an introductory note to the issue of Horizon in which The Oasis was published, she stated: The thing is m eant to be a landscape with figures, the figures being treated realistically, in a sort of Piero della Francesca m anner, and the landscape being, on the one hand, an idyllic Nature, and, on the other, a strange political climate of the real which they fantastically inhabit.84 As if to reinforce this point, the novella itself concludes with an explicitly pictorial image. Katy Norell, who has just had a premo­ nition of Utopia’s disintegration, literally pictures the colonists’ last communal act, a picnic. In her mind’s eye the scene becomes a ’wide can v as. . . crowded w ith bright, grotesque types, the apostles of a Breughelesque vision’.85 The Oasis’s pastoral setting is a dream-like evocation of the semirural locale of Cape Cod where, in the summer of 1945, tem porarily absent from her norm al urban environment, McCarthy felt a fleet­ ing sense of radical possibility. Utopia is not m eant to be an expe­ riential terrain; experience happens outside it. in the city. Instead it is a space filled purely w ith ideology, specifically the radical theories of Monteverdi/Chiaromonte. When experience does in­ trude in Utopia’s sacred ideological space, its portrayal is com­ pletely ’convincing’. This is not to refute Wald’s claim th a t in The Oasis McCarthy constructs an opposition between ideology and experience, but rather to suggest th at she was less inclined to valorise experience and less ideologically mystified than he implies. While The Oasis is not merely malicious literary gossip, neither is it a fictional indictment of radicalism. Rather it is at once a critique of PR’s vanguardist pessimism, and a sympathetic - and very per­ ceptive - imaginative enquiry into the causes of radical failure. Wald’s misreading reflects his assumption th at McCarthy was en­ tirely deradicalised when she wrote her novel. Like other historians of the New York Intellectual community, he fails to realise th a t some Intellectuals briefly discovered a radical alternative to Marxist-Leninism and liberal anti-Communism.

N otes


IV Although Macdonald succeeded in resuscitating Politics in 1948, the suspension of the previous autum n was, as he wrote later, ‘the beginning of the end’.86 Over the course of the next year he toyed w ith schemes intended to reinvigorate the magazine and place it on a more stable basis, such as appointing co-editors, and even emigrating to France and publishing it out of Paris; none, however, proved workable.87 At the close of 1948 the Macdonalds reviewed the state of their savings and discovered th at they had ‘suddenly dropped from the ranks of the comfortably-off into those of the hard-up’. Not counting their subsidies to Politics, they had spent twice as much over the past year as they thought they had.88 In April 1949 Macdonald told a correspondent ‘our cap ital. . . will be very close to extinction after we’ve paid for the Spring issue’.89 In the event, the spring issue never appeared. As Macdonald explained in a letter sent out to the magazine’s subscribers, ‘We simply didn’t have enough money. Regrets and apologies.’90 Between the decline in their savings, and rises in production costs - ‘in the first three years of Politics the printer’s bill doubled’91 - the Macdonalds could ‘no longer afford to make up the magazine’s deficit’.92 Following an unsuccessful attem pt to get up a ‘Publication Fund’, Macdonald eventually conceded defeat. In October 1949 he circularised his readers with a statem ent informing them th at he ‘had reluctantly decided to suspend publication of Politics’,93 By now the state of his personal finances was such th at there was really only one option available to him, which was to find a job. Shortly after giving up Politics, Macdonald joined the New Yorker as a staff writer, thus ending, as he put it, ‘the thirteen-year sabbatical th at had followed my resignation from Fortune in 1936’.94

Notes 1 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Albert Camus, 16 December 1946, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale; Albert Camus, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 9 January 1947, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 7 April 1947, Mac­ donald Papers. 2 Stephen J. Whitfield, A Critical American: The Politics of Dwight Mac­ donald (Hamden: Archon, 1984) 66.


N otes

3 Lionel Abel, The Intellectual Follies: A Memoir of the Literary Venture In New York and Paris (New York: Norton, 1984) 152. 4 Nicola Chiaromonte, ‘On the Kind of Socialism Called Scientific’. Politics 3 (1946): 33-44. 5 Abel, Intellectual PoUtes 186-8. 6 See Sidney Hook, ‘The Radical Comedians: Inside Partisan Review’, American Scholar 54 (1984-5): 52. 7 Rahv’s description of Macdonald’s political trajectory might equally well have been applied to his own, except in reverse. Macdonald had ‘gratuitously transferred’, Rahv alleged, ‘attitudes of irresponsible and elegant intransigence . . . from the sphere of bohemian aesthetics to that of politics’. Philip Rahv, ‘Disillusionment and Partial Answers’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 524-5. 8 See above, chapter 1. 9 See for example James Burnham, ‘Lenin’s Heir’, Partisan Review 12 (1945) : 61-72, and Sidney Hook, ‘The Future of Socialism’, Partisan Review 14 (1947): 23-36. 10 William Barrett, 'The Liberal Fifth Column’, Partisan Review 13 (1946) : 279-93. 280, 292. For Barrett’s account of the genesis of this editorial, see William Barrett, The Truants: Adventures Among the Intel­ lectuals (New York: Doubleday, 1982) 79-82. 11 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Victor Serge, 27 February 1945, Mac­ donald Papers. 12 In a riposte to William Barrett’s essay ‘The Liberal Fifth Column’ and an editorial comment published in the following issue of PR which had ridiculed Politics’ position vis-à-vis Stalinism (‘Politics of Illusion’, editorial, Partisan Review 13: 612-13), Macdonald accused ‘the best American literary magazine’ of ‘explicitly making its peace with the status quo’, and pointed out that, despite their assertions to the contrary, PR’s editors’ own position on Stalinism logically implied support for American military action against the Soviet Union. Dwight Macdonald, ’Partisan Review and Politics’, Politics 3 (1946): 401-3. 13 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Daniel Bell, 8 April 1947, Macdonald Papers. 14 Irving Howe, ‘How Partisan Review Goes to War’, New International 13 (1947): 110. 15 Defending himself against PR’s editors charge that his position amounted ‘in objective terms [to] a complete surrender to Stalin’, Mac­ donald observed that, during its relatively brief existence. Politics had printed a greater volume of explicitly anti-Stalinist material than PR had in all its years of publication. ‘Politics of Illusion’ 612; Macdonald, *Partisan Review and Politics' 401.

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16 Dwight Macdonald, ‘Heniy Wallace’, Politics 4 (1947): 33-44,96117. 17 Dwight Macdonald, letter to George Orwell, 23 April 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 18 Dwight Macdonald, ’USA v. USSR’, reprinted in Dwight Macdonald, Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (New York: Farrar, 1957) 307-14. 19 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Dachine Rainer, 30 June 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 20 Dwight Macdonald, ‘The Pacifist Dilemma’, reprinted in Mac­ donald, Memoirs 193-7. 21 The average cost of printing 4.700 copies of an issue of Politics in summer 1945 was about $420. The following year the cost of printing 5,700 copies was estimated at $800. Dorothy Brumm, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 22 July 1946, Macdonald Papers. 22 For example, only 66 new and 51 renewed subscriptions were received in June 1946, as compared with 154 and 81 in June 1945. Dorothy Brumm, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 22 July 1946, Macdonald Papers. 23 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Dorothy Brumm, 27 July 1946, Mac­ donald Papers. 24 Dwight Macdonald, letter to George Orwell, 2 December 1946, Macdonald Papers. 25 Dwight Macdonald, *A Report to the Readers’, Politics 5 (1948): 58. 26 For example, Macdonald increasingly concentrated his promotion efforts on old subscribers who had allowed their subscriptions to expire. In 1947 he instructed an assistant to mail as many as four or five re­ minders to lapsed subscribers, because the magazine’s ‘expirees are prob­ ably worth more attention than new prospects’. Dwight Macdonald, letter to Cliff Bennett, 24 July 1947, Macdonald Papers. 27 Macdonald, Memoirs 26; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Daniel Bell, 8 April 1947, Macdonald Papers. 28 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Melvin Lasky, 2 October 1947, Mac­ donald Papers. 29 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, 4 December 1947, Macdonald Papers. 30 Macdonald, ‘Report to Readers’ 58. 31 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Robert Luzon, 27 March 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 32 RAG calendar and minutes, n.d. [probably 28 March 1948], Mac­ donald Papers.


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33 BAG calendar and minutes, n.d. [probably 11 April 1948], Mac­ donald Papers. 34 BAG manifesto, n.d. [probably March 1948], Macdonald Papers. 35 BAG calendar and minutes, n.d. [probably 11 April 1948], Mac­ donald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to George Orwell, 23 April 1948, Macdonald Papers. 36 This auction was held during a party at the house of Dorothy Norman, where the programme of entertainments also Included music by Nicholas Nabokov and a short play acted by Mary McCarthy’s brother, Kevin McCarthy, and Montgomery Clift. Guests were charged $1.50 for admission. BAG calendar and minutes, n.d. [probably 28 March 1948], Macdonald Papers; BAG calendar and minutes, n.d. [probably 11 April 1948], Macdonald Papers. 37 Politics 5 (1948): 204. 38 Philip Rahv, ’Disillusionment and Partial Answers’, Partisan Review 15 (1948): 524. 39 ‘From the Notebooks of Lionel Trilling’, Partisan Review: The 5Oth Anniversary Edition, ed. William Phillips (New York: Stein, 1985) 28. 40 Mary McCarthy, quoted in Carol Gelderman, Mary McCarthy: A life (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1989) 140. 41 Rahv. ’Disillusionment’ 521-3. 42 ’Notebooks of Trilling’ 28. 43 BAG calendar and minutes, n.d. [probably 11 April 1948], Mac­ donald Papers. 44 Gelderman, Mary McCarthy 141. 45 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Mary McCarthy, 9 July 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 46 Mary McCarthy, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably July 1948], Macdonald Papers. 47 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Mary McCarthy, 30 July 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 48 After learning from Chiaromonte early in September 1948 that McCarthy had not written him ’one single word’, Macdonald immediately wrote to her demanding to know the reason for her silence. He received a letter back from her husband, Bowden Broadwater, explaining that she had been immersed in writing a ‘short novel’ but assuring him of her support for and appreciation of Chiaromonte’s work in Europe. Macdonald himself was not satiflsied with this explanation; he ‘still [thought] it was very irresponsible and flighty of her’. The novella in question was, of course. The Oasis. Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 3 September 1948, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 14 September 1948, Macdonald Papers.

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49 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 3 September 1948, Macdonald Papers. 50 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 14 September 1948, Macdonald Papers. 51 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 9 July 1948, Macdonald Papers. 52 Mary McCarthy, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably July 1948], Macdonald Papers. 53 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 3 September 1948, Macdonald Papers. 54 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Albert Camus, 14 September 1948, Macdonald Papers; Miriam Chiaromonte, letter to Mary McCarthy, 10 October 1948, Macdonald Papers. 55 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Albert Camus, 21 October 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 56 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 10 December 1948, Macdonald Papers. 57 On 10 December Macdonald wrote to Camus to Inform him that: ‘We’re a little distressed not to have heard anything at all definite from you as to your plans and activities since your letter of last fall in which you said you were going to concern yourself exclusively with our mutual enterprise. . . How can we talk about transatlantic cooperation when we don’t even know what you’re up to in any concrete sense?’ Still having not heard from Camus a month later, Macdonald complained vehemently to Chiaromonte: ‘Let him write novels and plays, but I object to his pre­ tense that he is concerned personally about Worthy Causes . . . It’s all bluff and hypocrisy and you can tell him that from me.’ Dwight Mac­ donald, letter to Albert Camus, 10 December 1948, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 6 January 1949, Mac­ donald Papers. In fact at this time Camus was involved in a similar attempt to organise third camp elements in an international network, ‘Groupes de Liason Internationale’ - an attempt that proved equally as unsuccessful as EAG. For details of this intitiative see Gregory Dean Sumner, ‘Window on the First New Left: Dwight Macdonald’s Politics Magazine, 19441949’, diss., Indiana. 1992, 371-3. 58 The lack of fraternity of which Macdonald complained is vividly illustrated by a remark of Alfred Kazin’s. After attending a meeting of EAG, Kazln wrote in his diary: ‘Rahv is a commissar out of a Job and Macdonald an utter fool.' Neil Jumonville, ‘The Gray Dawn: The New York Intellectuals and the Function of Criticism’, diss., Harvard, 1986, 109. 59 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 10 December 1948, Macdonald Papers.


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60 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 15 December 1948, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaro­ monte. 6 January 1949, Macdonald Papers. 61 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 6 January 1949, Macdonald Papers. 62 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Anton Ciliga, 13 May 1949, Mac­ donald Papers. 63 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (Lon­ don: Seeker, 1983) 116-17. 64 Mary McCarthy. The Oasis, Horizon 110 (1949): 75-152. 65 A number of other characters in The Oasis invite Identification as New York Intellectuals: Harold Sidney, Taub’s ‘oldest and most cautious ally’, as William Phillips; John Aloysius Brown, ‘a philosophy teacher who had been converted from Marxism to the absurd’, as William Barrett; Susan Hapgood, a young novelist from a small-town, middle American background, who defers to Taub as her political and literary mentor, as Elizabeth Hardwick; and so on. McCarthy, Oasis 108, 109. 66 For example, the abortive attempt of the Hook/PR faction to vote EAG’s funds to some other entity by packing a meeting of the organisation at Rahv’s apartment late in the spring of 1948 is echoed in McCarthy’s account of an emergency session of Utopia’s council, convened at a few hours’ notice in Taub’s cottage, where, in the face of opposition from the purists, the realists fail to secure the expulsion of an unpopular member of the colony. 67 Alfred Kazln, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 17 November 1960, Macdonald Papers. 68 Saul Bellow and Harold Kaplan, quoted in Philip Rahv, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 24 March 1949, Macdonald Papers. 69 Nicola Chiaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 11 April 1949, Macdonald Papers. 70 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 14 April 1949, Macdonald Papers. 71 Gelderman, Mary McCarthy 145. 72 Saul Bellow and Harold Kaplan, quoted in Philip Rahv, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 24 March 1949, Macdonald Papers; McCarthy, Oasis 81. 73 McCarthy, Oasis 82. 74 According to William Barrett, Philip Rahv was 'crushed* by his satirical portrayal as Will Taub. Barrett recalls him retreating into ‘virtual seclusion’ for several weeks after publication of The Oasis. Particularly hard to forgive in ‘the boys” eyes was the fact that McCarthy had chosen to publish her story in the British magazine Horizon, thereby ensuring an

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European as well as an American audience for it. ‘The [PR] circle gathered around like a group of mourners', writes Barrett. “The woman is a thug”, Diana Trilling said.’ Barrett. Truants 45. 68, 67-8. 75 McCarthy, Oasis 117. 76 McCarthy, Oasis 76. 77 McCarthy, Oasis 144. 78 McCarthy, Oasis 133. 79 Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987). 80 Lionel Trilling, The Middle of the Journey (New York: Avon, 1947). Like his earlier short stories. Trilling’s novel revolves around the deradlcalisatlon of a middle-aged man. Forcefully confronted with experi­ ence in the form of nearly fatal illness, John Laskell begins to appreciate the limitations of ideology. His progressive liberal friends, the Crooms, shrink from the subject of death, thereby demonstrating their inability to grasp the problems of existence. Gifford Maxim, another of Laskell’s friends also in the grip of ideology (he has converted from Communism to Christianity), is morbidly obsessed with death. (Maxim, Trilling afterwards explained, was based loosely on Whittaker Chambers, whom he had known at Columbia.) These viewpoints are brought into conflict when Duck Caldwell, a shiftless drunk whom the Crooms romanticise, acci­ dentally kills his daughter. The Crooms exonerate Caldwell of personal guilt by blaming social forces for the tragedy; Maxim, who believes in the doctrine of free will, argues that Caldwell alone is responsible for his action. Laskell disagrees with both viewpoints, but does not really propose an alternative. Instead he makes a plea for scepticism and moderation, grounded in experience rather than ideology. 81 Wald, New York Intellectuals 241-2, 239. 82 See, for example, Lionel Trilling, ‘The Other Margaret’ Partisan Review 12 (1945): 481-501. 83 Wald, New York Intellectuals 241. 84 McCarthy, Oasis 74. 85 McCarthy, Oasis 152. 86 Macdonald, Memoirs 31. 87 In September 1948 Macdonald wrote to Chiaromonte asking him his opinion about the practicality of publishing Politics in Paris. Not long afterwards he came forward with a proposal for launching a ‘new’ Politics with an editorial board composed of, among others, C. Wright Mills and Irving Howe. By December, however, he had abandoned his plan of moving to France, and by the summer of the following year he had also given up any hope of forming a new editorial board. Dwight Macdonald,


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letter to Nicola Chlaromonte. 14 September 1948, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, draft proposal. 11 November 1948, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chlaromonte, 10 December 1948, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Hilary Goldstein, 16 July 1948, Macdonald Papers. 88 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chlaromonte. 10 December 1948, Macdonald Papers. 89 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chlaromonte. 7 April 1949, Macdonald Papers. 90 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, 1 July 1949, Mac­ donald Papers. 91 Macdonald, Memoirs 31. Reflecting retrospectively on the disast­ rous effect which a series of New York print union victories in pay disputes had on Politics, Macdonald commented: ‘As a friend of the working class, I couldn't object. But as a publisher, I couldn’t continue.' Quoted In Whit­ field, A Critical American 85. 92 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Politics subscribers, 1 July 1949, Mac­ donald Papers. 93 Dwight Macdonald, letter to readers of Politics, 10 October 1949, Macdonald Papers. 94 Macdonald. Memoirs 31. Writing from Europe. Chlaromonte re­ marked to Macdonald, ‘So you are going to get a job. My, that’s terrible - the last free Individual In America surrendering.' Nicola Chlaromonte, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 28 January 1949, Macdonald Papers.

C h ap ter 7

The vanguard mutates: the New York Intellectuals and the Cultural Cold War The collapse of EAG and the folding of Politics signified the end of the New York Intellectuals’ experiment with non-M arxist radical­ ism. W ithin a m atter of m onths the Intellectuals were embarked on a new phase of their communal history. In 1950 their principal political function ceased to be th at of an autonom ous radical van­ guard. Henceforth their main purpose was to serve as officially sponsored intellectual com batants of the international Communist movement. In this role they engaged in a variety of activities, from organising conferences on cultural freedom to exposing alleged Communist front organisations. Most significantly they played a leading part in the creation of the CIA-funded CCF, and dominated the CCF’s American affiliate, the ACCF. Many accounts of the New York Intellectuals’ tour of duty as Cultural Cold W arriors emphasise such themes as moral failing, personal irresponsibility and intellectual treason. It is conventional to represent the Intellectuals during this period as being swamped by the Cold W ar ethos, or seduced by the American state. Their covert relation with the CIA in particular is interpreted as evidence they had abandoned all their earlier principles, particularly their often proclaimed devotion to intellectual independence.1 While there is of course some tru th in this view, there are at least two respects in which it is seriously misleading. First, it exag­ gerates the extent of the Intellectuals’ break with their radical past. There were, it is argued in the first part of this chapter, im portant programmatic and rhetorical continuities between their incar­ nation as official Cold W ar polemicists and their previous existence as anti-Stalinist Marxist intellectuals. The characteristic Cultural Cold W ar committees of the 1950s - the CCF, the ACCF and so on


The political vanguard

- grew directly out of earlier organisational activities w ithin the New York Intellectual community: It is even possible to trace a direct line of descent from BAG to the CCF. Moreover, there are striking homologies between the rhetoric the Intellectuals em­ ployed in the service of the American state in the Cold W ar era and their earlier radical utterances. W hat this would seem to sug­ gest, apart from the remarkable efficiency of the recuperative forces working on the Intellectuals at mid-century, is th at there was some­ thing about their vanguardist identity th at lent itself peculiarly well to official purposes. Second, the traditional interpretation of the New York Intellec­ tuals’ contribution to the Cultural Cold W ar tends to overestimate the Intellectuals’ subservience to the American government. As the second half of this chapter tries to show, the alliance between the Intellectual community and the CIA was, at best, tentative and expedient. In much the same way as the Intellectuals deeply resented the post-W ar publishing industry’s efforts to merchandise Modernist literature, so they entertained profound misgivings about official Cold W ar anti-Communism. To describe them as ’liberal anti-Communists’ during this period is mistaken. Indeed, their Cold W ar anti-Communism contained strong traces of anti­ liberalism, a residue of their radical past which manifested itself much later in the neo-conservatism of individuals like Norman Podhoretz. Also, despite claims to the contrary, their allegiance to the doctrine of intellectual independence had not disappeared, but reemerged constantly throughout the 1950s in the shape of serious concerns about official sponsorship of intellectual activities. These two factors, the Intellectuals’ residual anti-liberalism and continu­ ing devotion to the ideal of independence, greatly subtracted from their ’usefulness’ to the CIA.I I During the second half of the 1940s, as relations between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated from wartim e alliance to Cold W ar hostilities, a battle commenced for the hearts and minds of western intellectuals. In 1947, shortly after the American government announced its European Recovery Pro­ gram, the Soviets embarked on a propaganda campaign to gal­ vanise pro-Communist and anti-American sentim ent in European

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


intellectual circles. Starting w ith a congress of German writers in East Berlin, the newly established Cominform orchestrated a series of conferences and festivals in various European capitals célébrât* ing Stalinist achievements in the arts and sciences and denouncing alleged acts of military aggression by the US.2 The American government was surprisingly slow in responding to this Soviet initiative. At first, resistance was limited to a few scattered individuals, such as Melvin J. Lasky, in West Berlin. A New York-born Jew, a graduate of City College, a Trotskyist sym­ pathiser during the late 1930s, Lasky shared much in common w ith the New York Intellectuals. After serving in the US Seventh Army during the War, he remained in Germany as a correspondent of the New Leader and Partisan Review.3 Presumably as a result of his experiences in the divided city of Berlin, he rapidly became a zealous anti-Communist, firmly convinced of the political and moral equivalence of Communism and Nazism. In 1947 he gate­ crashed the East Berlin German W riters' Congress and delivered a defiant speech in tribute to those Russian writers persecuted by the Stalinist regime. Afterwards, as he explained in a letter to Dwight Macdonald, his nam e became ‘a war-cry and [his] telephone a national headquarters’.4 Much to his disgust, however, the US authorities not only failed to support his attem pts to organise antiCommunist activities, but even considered expelling him from Berlin.5 The situation demanded acts of desperate heroism: [T]his is like w hat a frontier-town m ust have been like in the States in the middle of the 19th century - Indians on the horizon, and you’ve simply got to have th at rifle handy or [if] not your scalp is gone. But in those days a frontier-town was full of Indian-fighters . . . Here very few people have any guts, and if they do they usually don’t know in which direction to point their rifle.6 In 1948, in the wake of the Communist-inspired coup in Czechoslovakia, and the launching of the Berlin Blockade, official American determ ination to combat the Soviet propaganda cam­ paign increased markedly. Lasky was appointed to the editorship of a German-language cultural magazine, Der Monat, by the US High Commission, with a brief to print pro-American and antiCommunist propaganda. There were also, according to Lasky, ’activities in the trade unions, in cultural groups, in the press, and


The political vanguard

above all, In radio’.7 Nonetheless. Lasky still believed th at antiSoviet activists lacked adequate resources and direction. Condi­ tions would improve vastly, he told Macdonald, ’if there were only a few people over here, who are trained and reliable. There are only a handful of us left and we can 't battle on every front.’8 Reports such as these dismayed New York Intellectuals back home in America. Sidney Hook urged the US government to m ount an ’informational campaign’ presenting the ’sober facts’ of Ameri­ can culture and politics to European intellectuals. William Barrett called upon American officials to counter Soviet propagandising about world peace with a rhetoric of their own based on the slogan of world freedom. And so on.9 In the face of official inactivity, the Intellectuals decided to take the initiative themselves. As they wound up EAG in the spring of 1949 they talked over the possibility of creating a similar organisation along more practical lines. These talks bore fruit in the Friends of Russian Freedom (FRF). On this occasion, however, it was Sidney Hook and the editors of PR, rather than Dwight Macdonald or Mary McCarthy, who made the run­ ning, and despite assurances from Macdonald to Nicola Chiaromonte th at the FRF’s principles were consistent with those of EAG, the new organisation’s primary purpose - fighting Stalinism - was plainly evident. Working from the assumption th at ordinary Soviet citizens were victims rather than accomplices of the Stalinist re­ gime, and hence potential allies of the freedom-loving peoples of the west, FRF sought ‘to drive a wedge between the Kremlin & the Russian people’. The main concrete proposal was the setting up of a ’Russian institute’ in the US, to be staffed by displaced Soviet citizens ’so that they can make their rich store of knowledge avail­ able to the world’.10 In the event, the FRF accomplished little beyond the drafting of a manifesto. In 1949 the new organisation was overtaken by a startling development. In the late spring of that year former mem­ bers of the American Popular Front began organising a Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on the same lines as the Cominform’s European peace congresses.11 At a meeting of FRF in March 1949 an appalled Sidney Hook proposed the formation of a committee ’to expose and counteract the work’ of the Waldorf Conference.12 In the rush of events FRF was replaced by the far more aggressive, m ilitant organization, Americans for Intellectual Freedom (AIF). Under

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


Hook’s leadership, AIF held a counter-rally at the aptly named Freedom House, publicised the Communist connections of the Waldorf Conference’s organisers, and issued misleading statem ents in the names of leading conferees.13 The New York Intellectuals’ response to the Waldorf Peace Confer­ ence represented a turning point in the Cultural Cold War. First, the AIF formed the organisational basis of the ACCF, which was formally established early in 1951. Second, and more importantly, AIF directly inspired the creation of the CCF. Shortly after the close of the Waldorf Conference Sidney Hook flew to Paris to attend an anti­ com munist demonstration modelled after the AIF rally.14 While in Paris, Hook met Melvin Lasky and discussed with him the possibility of creating an international organisation of anti-Communist intel­ lectuals. David Rousset, the organiser of the Paris demonstration, suggested that a founding conference for such an organisation might be held in Berlin.15 During the summer of 1949, Lasky discussed these proposals with leading German anti- Communist intellectuals, and a definite plan emerged for a conference to be held in Berlin in 1950, after which an ‘International Committee for Cultural Freedom’ dedicated to the ‘cultural reconstruction’ of post-War Europe would be established on a permanent basis.16 By this stage, the projected organisation had acquired a sponsor. A friend of Lasky’s, Michael Josselson, a State Department officer working on the de-Nazification programme in Berlin, had visited New York in 1949 in time to witness the formation of the AIF.17 After meeting w ith prom inent European anti-Communist intellec­ tuals in Paris,16 Josselson returned to Germany and arranged for US government funds to be made available to Lasky. The source of these funds, It later emerged, was the newly formed CIA. At some point in the late 1940s, Josselson had become a CIA operative. The CCF was convened in West Berlin in June 1950. The core personnel of the AIF, Hook, James Burnham and Irving Brown, played a crucial role throughout in arranging and m anaging the conference programme. Against a background of international tension caused by the outbreak of the Korean War, anti-Communist intellectuals like A rthur Koestler protested Soviet violations of hum an rights and insisted on the irreconcilability of totalitarianism and artistic and scientific freedom.19 In the months immediately following the conference, the CCF was arranged on a perm anent footing. An Executive Committee was appointed (with Denis de


The political vanguard

Rougemont, the Swiss philosopher, as President), a Secretariat set up in Paris (with Nicholas Nabokov, the Russian émigré composer, as Secretary-General and Josselson, the CIA operative, as Executive Director) and, more gradually, national affiliates created in various countries around the world (of which the ACCF was one).20 Soon the Congress was engaged in a programme of activities and events, such as publishing literary magazines and organising festivals of the arts, designed to dem onstrate the cultural accomplishments of nations governed by democratic political institutions. The CIA division responsible for funding the Congress was the International Organisations Division. The IOD’s purpose, as its creator Thomas Braden later explained, was to combat the influ­ ence of Communist-orchestrated organisations (such as the World Peace Council and the World Federation of Democratic Youth) by ‘penetrating a battery of international fronts’. To conceal its iden­ tity, the IOD adopted certain measures: Limit the money to am ounts private organisations can credibly spend . . . Use legitimate existing organisations; disguise the extent of American interest; protect the Integrity of the organisation by not requiring it to support every aspect of official American policy.21 The IOD’s most characteristic tactic, however, was the creation of dummy foundations to channel monies to targeted organisations. As well as preserving the anonymity of the CIA, this tactic fostered the impression th at private American citizens were acting dis­ interestedly to support the cause of international cultural and political freedom. Between 1952 and 1967 the CIA used as m any as thirty-nine such foundations, w ith the active encouragement of the National Security Council and the Secretaries of State and of Defence.22 In the case of the CCF, the principal conduit of CIA subsidies was the Farfield Foundation. The Farfield was headed by the Cincinatti millionaire, Julius ‘Junky’ Fleischmann, a patron of the Boston Museum of Contemporary Arts and other prestigious cultural institutions, and therefore a quite plausible sponsor for the CCF.23 So elaborate was the CIA’s operation th at m any intel­ lectuals who participated in Congress activities were unaw are of the the real identity of their sponsor. They thus became, in CIA terminology, ‘unw itting assets’. The question of how much the New York Intellectuals knew

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


about the CIA’s activities is and will probably continue to be a m atter for controversy.24 For our purposes though it is academic. The im portant point to note is th at the Intellectuals clearly recog* nised the Cultural Cold W ar as their cause. It was they who had first alerted Americans to the gravity of the Soviet threat. The organisational weapons w ith which the Cultural Cold W ar was to be waged had grown directly out of their political activities during the late 1940s. Above all, the principle on which the American propaganda effort was founded, th at is cultural freedom, was ex* actly the one they themselves had been defending ever since the 1930s. Even the rhetoric of the Cultural Cold W ar was the same as in earlier struggles, adversary, dualistic, macho: The vocabulary of opposition remained intact, the sense of a m ilitant critique was preserved, even if the target had been switched from capitalism to communism. Intellectuals were still being responsible, and the elective heroism of their own individual choices was upheld w ith the ceremonial importance to which they had become accustomed.25 Finally, in being sent forward into the world to defend western intellectual freedom from the malign influence of Communism, the Intellectuals were in essence performing the same function they had performed as professional revolutionaries two decades earlier: th at of a vanguard. Nor is it very difficult to see why the CIA should have been prepared to patronise the Intellectuals. To begin with, there was the fact that, as former Party members, they possessed insider knowledge, so to speak, of the enemy camp. The CIA’s organis­ ational forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services, had routinely employed ex-Communists in its wartime operations for this very reason. When, in 1943, the former Trotskyist Eleanor Clark ap­ proached her OSS divisional director suggesting th at he employ her friend F. W. Dupee (the former PR editor), she felt obliged to mention Dupee’s radical past. The director ‘was not at all put out’, Clark later told Dupee, ‘in fact rather the contrary, as the curse here has been respectable people who lack both radical histories and any atom of political sense’.26 Then there was the Intellectuals’ undoubted commitment to the cause. During the late 1940s they had organised in response to Soviet propaganda initiatives w ithout official prompting, indeed in some cases w ithout official approval.


The political vanguard

Had it not been for the efforts of Sidney Hook in America and Melvin Lasky in Germany, the CCF might never have existed: these were, as Thomas Braden put it, ‘the only people who gave a dam n about fighting Communism’.27 But more im portant even than this was the fact th at the New York Intellectuals were perceived as ‘independent’. Here were free-thinking individuals who had arrived at their anti-Stalinlst convictions by themselves years previously. State Department functionaries might hold similar views about Soviet Communism; but they could never wield the cultural author­ ity th at the New York Intellectuals possessed by virtue of their freedom from official affiliations. These are the reasons why in 1950 government officials, such as CIA Director Allen Dulles, ad­ vocated the mobilisation of the New York Intellectuals, and other *non-Communist Left’ (or ‘NCL’) intellectual communities, for the Cultural Cold War. To quote Peter Coleman, historian of the CCF: Now, at a unique historic moment, there developed a convergence, almost to a point of identity, between the assessments and agenda of the ‘NCL’ intellectuals and that combination of Ivy League, anglophile, liberal can-do gentle­ men, academics, and idealists who constituted the new CIA.2S The ease w ith which the Intellectuals were recruited for the Cultural Cold W ar demonstrates the inherent weakness of a code of radical theory and practice premised on the values of autonom y and independence. Indeed, it was precisely their perception of themselves as an independent vanguard th at actually allowed the transition from radical to legitimist at all. The fact th at the organ­ isational origins of the CCF can be traced back to BAG seems particularly ironic. W hen Macdonald, McCarthy and Chiaromonte undertook the creation of an organisation designed to rejuvenate the international left they could not have suspected that, w ithin the space of one and a half years, it would m utate into a propa­ ganda front for the US government. Of course, the Intellectuals themselves were not entirely responsible for this development: they were caught in a process of institutional recuperation th a t was practically irresistible. Still, most of them were guilty of a failure of im agination th at prevented them from thinking of a radical alternative to the vanguardist role of M arxist-Leninist revolutionary or Cultural Cold W arrior.

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


II Still, it would be a mistake to overstate the identity of interest that existed between the CIA and the NCL. Peter Coleman’s account of ’convergence’, though very perceptive in many respects, is deficient in others. For example, it fails to explain why, if their interests were identical, the CIA felt the need to conceal its identity from the NCL. Of course it is highly unlikely th at the NCL was entirely innocent of knowledge concerning the CIA’s role in its affairs. Doubtless some, perhaps many, individuals were in on the secret. Also, it is probable th at the CIA’s policy of concealment was partly dictated by domestic political considerations: overt liberal initiatives aimed at assisting left-wing intellectuals would never have passed Con­ gress during the 1950s, regardless of w hether those intellectuals were anti-Communist or not. However, factors like this do not account for the CIA’s policy of deceiving the NCL itself. The ques­ tion remains: why did the CIA regard it as necessary to keep its NCL assets ’unw itting’? In the case of the European NCL, the most obvious reason was the CIA’s fear of exciting anti-Americanism. The mere fact th at the European NCL was non-or anti-Communist was no guarantee that intellectuals belonging to it would be willing agents of American interests. Indeed, given their leftism, and considering the preval­ ence of anti-American sentim ent in Europe at this time, the opposite was more likely. Also w orth mentioning in this connection is the instinctive dislike felt by intellectuals towards institutionally, and especially officially, funded cultural activities. The case of Perspec­ tives USA, briefly discussed in the Introduction, is relevant here. This foreign-language periodical digest of American literature was launched by the Ford Foundation in 1953 w ith the aim of con­ verting European intellectuals to a more sympathetic view of the US. In fact the magazine provoked widespread resentm ent in Europe, not only because it was ‘so obviously an American pack­ age’, but also because of its ’inauthentic’ institutional origins, and it was quietly killed off by the Ford a few years later.29 In view of the problems experienced by Perspectives, it is understandable why the CIA should have hesitated before making public its support for the European NCL. However, the CIA’s policy of concealment brought in its train several problems. In addition to the day-to-day difficulties of


The políticaI vanguard

m aintaining such an elaborate deception, which required a state of constant secrecy on the part of operatives like Michael Josselson. there was always the risk th at the European NCL might use CIA resources in activities unrelated to the Cold W ar. Funding for the arts was scarce In a continent devastated by w ar and already in a state of relative economic decline. It was not impossible th at Euro­ pean intellectuals might simulate support for the US in order to obtain American cultural patronage. Certainly during the late 1950s and the 1960s American anti-Communist intellectuals began to suspect th at many of the foreign beneficiaries of the American Cultural Cold W ar effort were ‘milking’ the US. In 1957, for example, James T. Farrell announced th at the Indian intelli­ gentsia believed its best policy was *to flirt with Communists, insult us, and perhaps get more money out of us';30 ten years later James Burnham stated his belief th at ‘The NCL is not reliable/31 In short, while not simply resisting American Cultural Cold W ar initiatives, overseas NCL intellectuals showed a tendency to appropriate them , and use them for their own purposes. Nor were the CIA's difficulties limited to the European NCL. Its relationship with the American NCL, th at is the New York Intel­ lectual community, was also beset by problems. Not the least of these was a profound difference between the CIA’s liberal anti­ communism and the brand of anti-Communism espoused by the Intellectuals. A good place to start refuting the widely held misconception th at the New York Intellectuals were liberal anti­ com m unists is the 1967 Commentary symposium ‘Liberal AntiCommunism Revisited’. This symposium - often invoked as a definitive statem ent and defence of the tenets of liberal antiCommunism - in fact contains a num ber of contributions by New York Intellectuals explicity repudiating th at ideology. Irving Howe, for example, insisted th at ‘our . . . anti-Communism had nothing to do with proposals regarding foreign policy’, nor ‘w ith the corruptions and vulgarities of the CIA’. Rather it ‘had its roots in the socialist experience of the 30’s’.32 Similarly, William Phillips strove to distinguish his ‘own anti-Communism’, which ‘was p art of a larger radical perspective’, from the ‘species of conservative anti-Communism more easily assimilable by politicians’. To have taken its anti-Communism from the Left, the American government would have had to perform the most delicate surgery to extract the criticism of Russian

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


Communism from a complicated and radical structure of ideas.33 For some contributors to the symposium, making this distinction was simply a m atter denying they were, or ever had been, liberals. 1 was never a liberal anti-Communist or, for th at m atter, any other kind of liberal’, wrote Philip Rahv.34 Even those who, like Sidney Hook, were prepared to accept the designation ’liberal antiCommunist’, understood the term quite differently from the majority of commentators and scholars as referring not to US government policy but rather to a small group of independent, critical intellectuals. According to Hook, The notion th at anti-Communist liberalism has had a profound effect on the conduct of American foreign policy . . . is a myth . . . [Anti-Communist liberals] exercised no more appreciable influence on the adm inistrations of Eisenhower and Kennedy than . . . on the adm inistrations of the 40’s . . . To the extent th at they have concerned themselves with foreign policy, their public record is one of independence, and sometimes criticism of American foreign policy.3S Of course, there was an element of self-exculpation in all this. As well as witnessing a deepening of American involvement in the w ar in Vietnam, 1967 was the year when the CIA’s involvement in the Cultural Cold W ar was first revealed publicly.36 Indeed, it was these events th at had prompted Commentary to hold a sym­ posium on liberal anti-Communism in the first place. It is not hard to see why therefore many contributors should have sought to distance themselves from the US government. That said, Intellectuals’ claims th at their anti-Communism was a thing apart from the ideology of government agencies like the CIA ought be to taken seriously. A brief recapitulation of the Intel­ lectuals’ political history prior to 1950 reveals a num ber of very good reasons why they should object to being called liberal anti­ com munists, or identified w ith the CIA. Their deconversion from Communism in the 1930s had been partly caused by their alien­ ation from the political culture of the liberal middle classes, a culture which they perceived, rightly or wrongly, as susceptible to Stalinism. Anti-Communism was then, for them, a marginal, adversarial ideology; it had, Philip Rahv believed, ‘the true pathos and conviction of a minority fighting under its own banner for its


The political vanguard

own ends’.17Granted their equation of liberalism and Communism, the Intellectuals were bound to assume that the American govern­ ment was sympathetically predisposed to the Soviet Union. During the late 1940s they repeatedly accused US officials of seeking to appease Stalin, for example criticising the decision of the American zonal government in Germany to hand over displaced Russian citi­ zens to the Soviet military authorities.38 It was against this back­ ground of a perceived lack of official resolve in the face of Soviet aggression th at the Intellectuals began to organise themselves into anti-Communist action groups. Naturally, then, they were a little unsettled when the Trum an adm inistration adopted an energetic anti-Soviet foreign policy. Likewise, it was to be expected th at they would regard the activities of the ’liberal can-do gentlemen’ of the CIA with some scepticism. The convergence of their adversarial anti-Communism with the dom inant liberal ideology filled them w ith a disquieting sense of contradiction. Having conceived of antiCommunism as their special ideological property for so long, the Intellectuals were disinclined to see it translated into equivocal or ineffectual policies by recent converts to the cause. Fuelling the Intellectuals’ apprehensions about liberal antiCommunism was their suspicion of institutional patronage. The presumption against institutional meddling in independent, ’organic’ intellectual activity was still very strong, especially w hen the institution concerned was the state. W riting as recently as 1990 about the CCF, William Phillips recalled how during the 1950s he had been ’inclined to question its bureaucratic makeup and w hat was patently its secret control from the top’. Phillips’ main quarrel w ith the Congress appears to be th at it lacked ’authenticity’: ’literary magazines and organisations of writers, in particular, m ust have spontaneous beginnings and m ust be rooted in an intellectual community in order to be authentic’.39 Through­ out the late 1930s and 1940s the New York Intellectuals had worked hard to open channels of communication w ith antiCommunist leftist groups and individuals in Europe, and had suc­ ceeded in constructing informal but complex networks of inter­ continental intellectual relations, such as PR’s international roster of contributors, and Dwight Macdonald’s and Mary McCarthy’s EAG. It was inevitable th at any attem pt on the part of the state to appropriate and utilise this trans-A tlantic community of intel­ lectual discourse would give rise to resentment. It is telling th a t

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


the leaders of the FRF were at pains to reassure its members that the organisation had no ties w ith the American government.40 Also w orth mentioning as a potential source of tension and div­ ision between the CIA and the New York Intellectuals was the latter’s conception of the relationship between culture and politics. An im portant reason stated by the Intellectuals for their defection from the Communist Party in the 1930s was its alleged disregard for the intrinsic value of art and literature. During the first years of the Intellectual community’s existence its members devoted m uch of their energy to defending this theory of cultural autonomy, such as when they launched a concerted attack on the wartime ’Cultural Nationalism’ of Van Wyck Brooks and Archibald MacLeish. It was inevitable th at official attem pts to open a cultural front in the Cold W ar would arouse some am bivalent emotions in the Intellectuals. For example, Meyer Schapiro, the Columbia Univ­ ersity art historian, refused to join the ACCF on the grounds th at it seemed to him ’a “front” organisation’: It is not in my opinion a ‘Committee for Cultural Freedom’, but an organisation for fighting the world communist move­ ment. I am in sympathy w ith this aim, but my experience has made me wary of organisations which conceal their purpose behind an appeal to other (and less obviously political) ends.41 Schapiro’s refusal to join the ACCF points to a possible source of concern on the part of the CIA regarding the Intellectuals. As w ith all major political or cultural issues, there was considerable disagreement w ithin the Intellectual community about the Cold War. The previous chapter discussed the rift which occurred in the late 1940s between the leaders of the BAG, w ith Macdonald and McCarthy, on the one hand, advocating a ‘soft’ line on Communism and Hook, Rahv and Phillips on the other, urging a vindictive w ar against the Soviet Union. In the 1950s the Intellectual community was still divided along similar lines, although the ethnic, Jew Gentile dimension of this division had blurred somewhat. Mac­ donald and McCarthy continued to criticise w hat they regarded as the anti-Communist excesses of their Jewish colleagues, receiving support from prom inent liberals outside of the Intellectual commu­ nity, such as the Harvard historian A rthur J. Schlesinger Jr and the W ashington journalist James Weschler. However, a sizeable minority of Jewish Intellectuals were also opposed to ‘hard’ anti-


The political vanguard

Communism. Centred around Irving Howe's magazine Dissent, this group included Meyer Schapiro and Harold Rosenberg. Meanwhile Hook and PR’s editors moved in the direction of a more moderate anti-Communism, and along w ith younger Jewish Intellectuals such as Daniel Bell tried to mediate between the more extreme tendencies within the community. Still, it is probably true to say th at the hard tendency had the upper hand. Two other members of the fold of Intellectual magazines, Commentary and New Leader, played an im portant role in influencing young Intellectuals like N athan Glazer and Irving Kristol towards a hard anti-Communist orientation. It suggests something of the disunity of the New York Intellectuals on this issue th at in 1954 both Dwight Macdonald and James Burnham resigned from the ACCF, the former because he felt th at the organisation had failed to oppose Senator Joseph McCarthy and the latter because it had failed to support him;42 also th at the degree of anti-Communist militancy displayed by the two chief editors of PR differed markedly - while Phillips was an active officer of the ACCF, Rahv was not even a member. Owing to a lack of documentation, it is impossible to speak w ith any certainty about offlcal attitudes towards the New York Intel­ lectuals, but it would seem reasonable to assume th at these complex internal divisions dismayed the CIA. The frequency, and vicious­ ness, of the Intellectual community’s internal disputes not only reduced the Intellectuals’ effectiveness as Cold W ar assets but also threatened grave em barrassm ent to the American government. Had the CIA recorded its views of the Intellectuals, they might well have resembled those of the British poet Stephen Spender, w ho described a typical Intellectual political controversy as: really a kind of back-street slanging m atch in Brooklyn between different groups all of whose surnam es are Rosenberg: Republican Rosenbergs, Democrat Rosenbergs, all anxious to distinguish themselves from THE Rosenbergs.43lI Ill The most effective way of illustrating these claims about th e relationship between the CIA and NCL, both American and Euro­ pean, is to resume the narrative of organisational history begun earlier in the chapter, paying particular attention to the troubled relations between the CCF and its American affiliate the ACCF. In

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar

20 7

the period immediately following the founding Berlin Conference, the New York Intellectuals’ influence on the CCF rapidly dimin­ ished. Melvin Lasky went back to editing Der Monat: Sidney Hook, James Burnham and Irving Brown returned to America. Under the direction of the Executive Director, the CIA operative Michael Josselson, the leadership of the new organisation was gradually turned over to European NCL intellectuals.44 Meanwhile, Hook and his colleagues set about establishing the CCF’s American affiliate. Thanks to their efforts the ACCF soon evolved into a large and energetic body of American intellectuals from a variety of different backgrounds (a kind of ’Popular Front of anti-Stallnists, something like the League of American W riters in reverse’).45 Nonetheless, leadership remained firmly in the hands of the New York Intel­ lectuals.46 It is possible therefore to view the CCF and the ACCF as organisational embodiments of, respectively, the European and American NCLs. Moreover, in the absence of other evidence, and in view of the fact th at the executive posts of the international Congress were filled by CIA operative Michael Josselson, relations between the CCF and the ACCF might be read as roughly para­ digmatic of the relationship between the CIA and the New York Intellectuals. From a very early stage the CCF and the ACCF disagreed about w hat tactics they should employ in the Cultural Cold War. So as not to arouse European anti-Americanism, the CCF deliberately avoided the appearance of partisanship in the struggle between the US and the Soviet Union, and devoted its resources to apparently non-political activities such as literary seminars and music festi­ vals. Stephen Spender summed up this policy at a meeting of the organisation’s Executive Comittee: ‘our politics should be the impli­ cation of our interest in culture . . . rather than the other way round’. The hope was th at by encouraging and publicising cultural activity in the ‘Free World’, the CCF would foster loyalty to demo­ cracy and capitalism. As Spender w ent on to explain: ‘we should do everything we can to try and get hold of artists, writers, scientists and so on, and help them in an interested way w ith their work and try to show them t h a t . . . the question of freedom, the struggle, fighting for freedom is involved’.47 This tactic was based on a real­ istic and accurate assessment of the intellectual mood in Europe and further afield, in Asia. However, it also provided a convenient excuse for European NCL intellectuals to spend CCF monies on


The political vanguard

cultural projects which did not possess much relevance to the political conflict between the US and USSR. In contrast, the ACCF believed th at the Communist propaganda campaign should be answered in kind, w ith a forthright attack on conditions in the Soviet Union and defence of the US.48 The Soviet threat was in its view too urgent for anything to be gained by tact or restraint. In 1952 Norbert Mühlen, recently returned from a trip to the Parisian headquarters of the CCF’s secretariat, informed a meeting of the ACCF’s Executive Committee th at ‘on the whole, the Congress organisations in Europe were a great disappointm ent to h i m . . . [Their] activities [were] more often social than anything else’.49 In 1955 a specially appointed ACCF subcommittee compiled a list of incidents and developments designed to show ‘how far the Congress has moved from pursuit of its real objectives and how far it seems to be willing to compromise with an atmosphere far too tolerant of totalitarianism and hostile to America’s role in the preservation of a free world’. The CCF’s programme of cultural festivals, which included the Paris Festival of Twentieth Century arts and the Rome Music Congress, attracted particularly harsh comment. ‘When one considered the political atmosphere in Europe and the lack of resolve in the face of the Communist threat, the Congress seemed to be holding arts festivals in Rome while Europe burned.’50 These complaints reflected both the New York Intel­ lectuals’ fierce sense of territoriality where anti-Communism w as concerned and their continuing commitment to the principle of cultural autonomy. Fuelling these tactical disagreements were a num ber of organis­ ational problems. First there was the fundamental contradiction that, whereas the ACCF had existed before the CCF, at least in the shape of the Americans for Intellectual Freedom, and its earlier 1930s incarnation, it now occupied a hierarchically subordinate position. This anomaly seems to have instilled in the American Committee a profound resentm ent of the control the international Congress exercised over its national affiliates. In 1955, for example, the ACCF felt moved to compare the CCF’s adm inistrative structure w ith the ‘democratic centralism ’ of the eastern bloc.51 This griev­ ance was compounded by the fact that, unlike other affiliates, the American Committee was not subsidised by the parent organis­ ation. The US, CCF officers explained, was not a ‘critical area’: the Communist threat to cultural freedom was less grave there th an

The vanguard m utates: the C ultural Cold W ar


in other countries. Also, the ACCF had better access to private sources of funding than other affiliates.52 (Yet, as the ACCF pointed out in response, American foundations tended to turn down its request for grants, often in favour of applications from the inter­ national Congress.53) As a result of its lack of regular subsidies from the CCF, the ACCF suffered chronic financial crises, almost going out of business on a num ber of occasions. Finally, both or­ ganisations were convinced th at the other was failing to give its activities sufficient publicity.54 For its part, the CCF was constantly exasperated by the behaviour of its American affiliate. The New York Intellectuals, it seemed, were hell bent on em barrassing themselves and their European colleagues. In 1952 the ACCF was riven by an acrimonious dispute between its left and right wings about w hat position it should adopt regarding the anti-subversive campaign of Senator McCarthy.55 The CCF was horrified. Secretary-General Nabokov penned a stem reprimand: I find it hard to believe th at there is any basic disagreement among the members of the American Committee on the m atter of intellectual freedom, and in particular about McCarthy . . . Frankly I would deplore a split in the American Committee . . . [It] would virtually represent a death blow to our work here, where Gaullists, Socialists, and non-Communists of every political party are working so well together.56 In 1953 and again in 1954, in the course of its campaign to expose the Emergency Civil Liberties Union as a Communist-front organisation, the ACCF came into conflict w ith the honorary chair of the CCF, Bertrand Russell.57 Once more the Congress was dis­ mayed. Considerable effort had been expended recruiting the in­ itially recalcitrant Russell to the cause, and CCF officers were particularly anxious th at he should not now by antagonised in any w ay.58Then in 1956 Russell wrote a letter to The Manchester Guard­ ian condemning the execution of the atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as a miscarriage of justice, and comparing America 'w ith other police states like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Rus­ sia’.59W hen the ACCF publicly accused Russell of having performed ’a major disservice to the cause of freedom and democracy in our troubled world, and a major service to the enemies we had supposed


The political vanguard

you engaged to com bat’,60 he resigned his chair of the CCF. As Sidney Hook later observed, the ’result was th at the Congress was more incensed against the American Committee than it was against Russell'.61 The CCF officially censured the ACCF; the ACCF accused the CCF of sacrificing tru th to expediency and failing to honour its obligations to one of its national affiliates.62 The final blow to relations between the two organisations was the public scandal which surrounded James T. Farrell’s resignation as chair of the ACCF in 1957. Farrell, evidently acting under the influence of alcohol, had w ritten an almost incoherent letter to the notoriously isolationist Chicago Tribune arguing th at the US foreign aid programme was a waste of money and th at Americans should retire to ’our own shores’ and ‘go it alone’.61 He resigned almost immediately after his letter was printed. The CCF was appalled, not only by Farrell’s action, but also by the failure of other officers of the ACCF to limit the damage it had caused.64 Not long after the Farrell affair, the American Committee severed its links w ith the CCF. A few m onths later, its funds exhausted and its membership depleted by defections from both its left and right wings, the ACCF suspended its activities altogether.V I IV By 1950 the ideological trajectory of the New York Intellectuals had brought them into the orbit of the national security state. Their vanguardist sense of intellectual mission, their freedom from em> barrassing social or political affiliations, even, ironically enough, their very obsession w ith intellectual independence, all of these qualities fitted them perfectly for the role of Cold W ar legitimists. However, it would be a mistake to dismiss them as nothing more than CIA patsies during this era. Not only were there issues over which the Intellectual community’s agenda diverged from th at of the CIA, there were also points at which they were in direct conflict. The Intellectuals tended to view the ‘Johnny-Come-Lately’ anti­ communism of post-W ar US government w ith suspicion and jeal­ ousy, and in any case objected on principle to covert official meddling w ith ostensibly independent intellectual activity - par­ ticularly as in this instance it involved the utilisation of culture for political purposes. There were similarities here w ith the European NCL, which felt sufficiently little identification w ith the American

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cause in the Cultural Cold W ar th at it was prepared to appropriate official US patronage for its own, selfish, local needs. Considering these contradictions and tensions, it is not surprising th at the major collaborative venture involving the CIA, the Intellectuals and the European NCL, th at is Encounter magazine, should have been plagued by tension and conflict.

Notes 1 The classic statement of New Left outrage at the Old Left’s embroil­ ment in the Cultural Cold War is Christopher Lasch, The Agony of the American Left (New York: Vintage, 1968) chapter 3. See also Jason Epstein, ‘The CIA and the Intellectuals’. London Magazine July 1967: 5-19; and David Caute, The Fellow-Travellers (London: Weidenfeld, 1973) 298-300. Irving Kristol testified to the wide currency of such opinions when he wrote in 1968: 'The idea that, in the late nineteen-forties and early fifties, there was mass trahison des clercs by the liberal antl-Communist intellec­ tuals - a treason suitably rewarded with money, honors and privileges of all kinds - is by now so widespread on the college campuses that I despair of correcting it.’ Irving Kristol, ‘Memoirs of a “Cold Warrior’”, New York Times Magazine 11 February 1968: 92. 2 For details of the Soviet propaganda campaign, see Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe (New York: Free Press, 1989) 1-9. 3 Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1987) 277-8. 4 Melvin Lasky, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 10 October 1947, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale. 5 Coleman. Liberal Conspiracy 19. 6 Melvin Lasky, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 10 October 1947, Mac­ donald Papers. 7 Melvin Lasky, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 20 December 1948, Mac­ donald Papers. 8 Melvin Lasky, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 19 March 1949, Mac­ donald Papers. 9 See Richard H. Pells, The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s (New York: Harper, 1985) 125-8. 10 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Nicola Chiaromonte, 10 December 1948, Macdonald Papers; Sidney Hook et al., ‘Friends of Russian Freedom: Preliminary Statement’, Macdonald Papers.


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11 For hostile contemporary reports of the proceedings on the Waldorf Conference by New York Intellectuals, see Irving Howe. ‘The Culture Conference’, Partisan Review 16 (1949): 505-11; William Barrett. ‘On the Horizon: Culture Conference at the Waldorf, Commentary April 1949: 487-93; and Dwight Macdonald. ‘The Waldorf Conference', Politics 6 (1949): 32. 12 Minutes of organising meeting of Friends of Russian Freedom. 4 March 1949, Macdonald Papers. 13 William Phillips, A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Literary Ufe (New York: Stein. 1983) 149. As Sidney Hook explained later, the AIF was a revival of the CCF, the organisation he had helped found in 1939 in response to Nazi-Soviet pact. Sidney Hook, Out of Step: An Unquiet Ufe in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper, 1987) 385. For a detailed account of the formation of AIF, see Neil Jumonville, ‘The Grey Dawn: The New York Intellectuals and the Function of Criticism', diss., Harvard, 1986, chapter 1. It is interesting to note that Dwight Macdonald and Mary McCarthy, along with Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell, chose to try and voice their anti-Stalinist convictions at the Waldorf Peace Con­ ference itself rather than within the Hook-led AIF. See Carol Gelderman, Mary McCarthy: A Ufe (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1989) 148-50. After attending the Peace Conference, Macdonald remarked that he had more in common with some of the Stalinist conferees than with the anti-Communlst pickets outside the Waldorf hotel. Macdonald, ‘Waldorf Confer­ ence’ 32. 14 Jumonville, 'New York Intellectuals’ 77-8. 15 Hook, Out of Step 432. 16 Coleman, Uberal Conspiracy 15-16. 17 Coleman, Uberal Conspiracy 6. 18 Wald, New York Intellectuals 278. 19 See Lasch, Agony 63-9, and Coleman, Uberal Conspiracy 27-32. 20 Coleman, Uberal Conspiracy 36-46. 21 Thomas W. Braden, ‘I’m Glad the CIA is ‘‘Immoral’”, Saturday Eve­ ning Post 20 May 1967: 12, 14. 22 Benjamin Whitaker, The Foundations: An Anatomy of Philanthropy and Society (London: Eyre and Methuen, 1974) 157. 23 Information concerning Fleischmann is derived from an undated memorandum in the ACCF Papers, Tamiment Library, New York Univer­ sity. According to this document, the purposes of the Farfield Foundation included funding ‘organisations, groups and individuals which are en­ gaged in . . . revealing to the nations and peoples of the free world the inherent dangers which totalitarianism poses’. 24 See above, chapter 4, for a discussion of recent controversies

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concerning PR’s funding. Allegations that Irving Kristol was a CIA op­ erative when he assumed the American editorship of Encounter are exam­ ined in Peter Steinfels, The Neoconservatives (New York: Simon and Schuster. 1979) chapter 5. Kristol himself emphatically denies such charges. See Kristol, ‘Memoirs’ 25. 25 Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 1989) 220. 26 Eleanor Clark, letter to F. W. Dupee, 26 August 1943, F. W. Dupee Papers, Butler Library, Columbia. 27 Braden, ‘I’m Glad the CIA is “Immoral”’ 10. 28 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 46. 29 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 26 January n.y., Allen Tate Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. See above. Introduction. 30 Lasch, Agony 79. 31 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 231. 32 Irving Howe, 'Liberal Anti-Communism Revisited: A Symposium’, Commentary September 1967: 48-9. 33 William Phillips, ‘liberal Anti-Communism’ 56. 34 Philip Rahv, ‘liberal Anti-Communism’ 63. 35 Sidney Hook, ‘Liberal Anti-Communism’ 44,48. Hook’s comments were echoed the following year when Irving Kristol set out to explain ‘what it was really like to be a liberal antl-Communist in those days. To begin with, it meant having practically no influence at all outside the hermetic universe of New York literary politics. The supposed connection between, say, the liberal intellectuals in New York and the political powers in Washington is wholly mythical. . . Washington was a million lightyears away, and one could no more influence it than one could influence the drift of the galaxies.’ Kristol, ‘Memoirs’ 92, 94. 36 For a useful account of the events surrounding the revelation of the CIA’s involvement in the CCF, see Ivan Yates, ‘The Encounter Affair’, Observer 14 May 1967: 11+. 37 Philip Rahv, ‘Our Country and Our Culture’, Partisan Review 19 (1952): 307. 38 See, for example, William Barrett, ‘Reflections on Returning from Italy’, Partisan Review 13 (1946): 57-68. 39 William Phillips, ‘The Liberal Conspiracy’, Partisan Review 57 (1990): 7, 10. 40 Sidney Hook et al., ‘Friends of Russian Freedom: Preliminary State­ ment’, Macdonald Papers. 41 Meyer Schapiro, letter to Irving Kristol, 22 October 1952, ACCF Papers. 42 William L. O’Neill, A Better World - The Great Schism: Stalinism and


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the American Intellectuals (New York: Simon, 1982) 304; Lasch, Agony 80. For an extended discussion of the ACCF’s record on McCarthylsm, see Mary Sperling McAullffe, Crisis on the Left (Amherst: University of Mas­ sachusetts Press. 1978) chapter 8. 43 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate. 26 January n.y., Tate Papers. 44 For further Information about this shift In the personnel and pur­ pose of the CCF. see Coleman. Liberal Conspiracy chapter 3. For a negative view of the appointment of Nicholas Nabokov as the organisation’s Sec­ retary-General. and the election of Ignazio Sllone, Nicola Chiaromonte and Michael Polanyl to Its Executive Committee, see Hook. Out of Step 444-5. 45 O’Neill. A Better World 298. 46 Hook was the ACCF’s first chair, and Irving Krtstol its first executive director. Diana Trilling and Daniel Bell served as officers of the organis­ ation. William Phillips of PR, Elliot Cohen of Commentary and Sol Levitas of New Leader all joined the ACCF’s board. 47 CCF Executive Committee minutes, 24 January 1955, ACCF Papers. Also present at this meeting so that he might present the views of the ACCF, Sidney Hook challenged Spender’s conception of the purpose of the CCF: ‘Now, I, too, agree. . . that the cultural activities In the International field have had political Implication; whether they had as much as they should have Is what concerns the American Committee. Some of Its mem­ bers believe they have not had as much as they should have. Anything that we undertake as a Congress should have some kind of bearing on the struggle that Is going on throughout the world. . . And unless w e. . . agree that the purely cultural works which we all do professionally should be left to other organisations, I think there will be a continuing source of misunderstanding. ’ 48 Among the specific measures the ACCF advocated was Inviting Internationally known ex-radlcal American writers like John Dos Passos and James T. Farrell to write essays depicting American society in a more positive light than had their novels for distribution In pamphlet form to Europe. Report of ACCF Subcommittee to ACCF Executive Committee, n.d., ACCF Papers. 49 ACCF Executive Committee minutes, 9 January 19 52, ACCF Papers. 50 Draft of ACCF statement for CCF, 6 January 1955, ACCF Papers. 51 Draft of ACCF statement for CCF, 6 January 1955, ACCF Papers. 52 Michael Josselson, letter to Sol Stein, 22 September 1955, ACCF Papers. 53 Draft of ACCF statement for CCF. 6 January 1955, ACCF Papers. 54 Draft of ACCF statement for CCF, 6 January 1955, ACCF Papers.

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55 See O’Neill, A Better World 298-302, and Wald. New York Intettectuals 273-4. 56 Nicholas Nabokov, letter to Arthur Schlesinger Jr, 21 April 1952, ACCF Papers. 57 In 1954 the ACCF requested that Russell withdraw his name from a birthday message sent by the Emergency Civil Liberties Union to Albert Einstein. Russell was infuriated. ‘I do not see any reasons why I should withdraw the message that I sent since it only expressed admiration for Einstein, which I would express to the devil himself if asked to do so . . . I should be very sorry to think that admiration for Einstein is now con­ sidered in America the mark of a fellow-traveller.’ ACCF internal memo­ randum, n.d., ACCF Papers. 58 Russell had resigned the honorary chair of the CCF in 1950 on the advice of Hugh Trevor-Roper. However, Sidney Hook had prevailed upon Russell to withdraw his resignation. See Hook, Out of Step 441-3. 59 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 165. 60 James T. Farrell, letter to Bertrand Russell, 5 April 1956, ACCF Papers. 61 Hook. Out of Step 424-5. 62 Diana Trilling, letter to Nicholas Nabokov, 1 June 1956, ACCF Papers. Trilling’s letter to Nabokov concluded: ’To sum up your criticism of us as it is stated in your letter and also as it is reported to us from various personal sources: you feel that it was improper for the American affiliate of the Congress publicly to censure Russell for his anti-American statements because such action on our part failed to take into account his usefulness to the Congress in Its European and Asian activities. Our answer to this criticism I can best put in the form of a question: how untruthful about America may a man be and still be useful to an organ­ isation which is pledged to truth and which numbers among its affiliates an American branch? . . . Surely those who are won to support of the Congress by Russell’s present-day activities and opinions may turn out to be very uncertain friends of what the Congress stands for tomorrow.’ 63 See Lasch, Agony 79-80, and Hook, Out of Step 429-30. 64 Michael Josselson, letter to Norman Jacobs, 29 September 1956, ACCF Papers.

C h ap ter 8

‘Unwitting assets’?: the New York Intellectuals and Encounter As well as sponsoring public events like the Rome arts festival, the CCF was deeply involved in an international programme of m aga­ zine publishing. During the early 1950s national affiliates of the CCF around the world created a host of new literary magazines in a variety of different languages: Preuves was launched in France, for example, Quest in India and so on. Generally speaking these magazines were exclusively cultural in character, and addressed to a national or local readership, as was dictated by the CCF’s strategy of avoiding the appearance of political partisanship in the Cold War. However, in the case of the Congress’ London-based English language magazine Encounter, which was aimed at an in­ ternational as well as a British audience, it was decided th at some attem pt should be made to include pro-American or anti-Soviet political material. To this end, the CCF decided to reserve a place on the editorial board for a member of the American NCL, the New York Intellectual community. This decision was to give rise to a num ber of difficulties. From the outset the Intellectuals objected to Encounter on the sam e grounds they objected to other CCF ventures: despite its professed intention of taking a firm stance on the Cold War, it did not in their view devote sufficient coverage to politics, and was too reti­ cent in declaring its support for the US. It thereby threatened to compromise the anti-Communist cause - a cause the Intellectuals had advocated long before organisations like the CCF came into existence. In addition, the Intellectual community baulked a t Encounter’s institutional origins, and its resulting lack of intellec­ tual authenticity. Of particular concern was the fact that, as the organ of an institution, the magazine lacked complete editorial independence. In the case of one editor recruited from the Intel­ lectual community, Dwight Macdonald, suspicion of unw anted

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interference in Encounter’s editorial affairs would lead to an ugly confrontation w ith the CCF. Meanwhile the CCF faced a very differ­ ent set of problems with the British NCL community, which pro­ vided most of the magazine’s contributors and readers. Initially the British responded to Encounter w ith indifference or hostility. The mood only became more receptive after British NCL intellectuals had succeeded more or less in wresting control of the magazine from its American patrons, thereby effacing its institutional origins, and rendering it ‘authentic’. I It was François Bondy and Minoo Masani who first suggested th at the CCF publish an English language magazine. After returning from a tour of India and the Far East in December 1952, Bondy (director of Congress Publications) and Masani (CCF’s chief Asian representative) submitted a report to the Executive Committee con­ taining this recommendation: The need for an international organ of the Congress in the English language is undoubtedly great, English being practically the only international language in Asia. The opportunity which this magazine would give to Asian writers would give them a feeling of solidarity w ith the Congress.1 On the advice of Sidney Hook, Nicholas Nabokov wrote to Irving Kristol, Executive Director of the ACCF, and a former editor of Commentary magazine, inviting his participation in a magazine to be edited in Paris and distributed in Asia.2 In January 1953 Kristol flew to Paris, where he consulted w ith Bondy, Michael Josselson and Melvin Lasky. Back in New York in February, he informed the Executive Committee of the ACCF th at ‘as far as he understood it, the Secretariat wanted a magazine on the level of Der Monat which would be international in scope, officially published by the Congress and serving as the “mouthpiece” of the Congress’. The CCF’s atti­ tude towards the projected magazine would be similar to th at of the American Jewish Committee’s towards its organ. Commentary: ‘the Secretariat would have ultim ate, but not immediate, editorial responsibility and control’.3 The ACCF Executive Committee responded to this proposal w ithout enthusiasm. Partisan Review’s William Phillips and Commentary’s


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Elliot Cohen both argued that existing American magazines such as their own already performed the functions of the projected publica­ tion. Instead of wasting its money on the invention of ‘pseudoindigenous* magazines, the CCF would be better occupied promoting PR and the like to a wider international audience. Clement Green­ berg, then managing editor of Commentary, amplified his colleagues* complaints: ‘although the magazine is to be published for the Far East, the Far East is not afraid of “made in America** products: they just do not w ant official handouts, but our good magazines should serve the purpose. Further, this project is likely to become the football of literary politics.'4 Of course, Phillips, Cohen and Greenberg were all bound to object to the appearance of a new competitor in the literary magazine marketplace, just as they were bound to lobby for the wider distribution of their own publications. That said, it is quite plausible that they believed existing American magazines had an organic, authentic quality th at the proposed journal would lack. The general opinion of the ACCF Executive Committee was that, should the CCF decide to press ahead with its proposal, then the new maga­ zine should be based somewhere in Asia, and produced by Asians. Phillips has recently revealed that the proposal for a Paris-based Asian magazine was regarded in New York as evidence of official meddling in the affairs of the CCF. The scheme was so ill-conceived and the ‘rationalisations were so patently sophistical that one was made to wonder w hat it was all about’.5 Greenberg's prediction th at the project would become a ‘football of literary politics' was soon fulfilled. At a meeting of the CCF's Executive Committee, T. R. Fyvel and Stephen Spender - both lead­ ers of the Congress’ British affiliate, the British Society for Cultural Freedom - proposed th at the new magazine be based in London rather than in Paris.6 A few weeks later the leadership of the British Society (which, consisting as it did of Fyvel, Spender, the w riter Malcolm Muggeridge and the publisher Frederick W arburg, had an unmistakably literary complexion), requested a subvention from the CCF to set up a publication modelled after Cyril Connolly's Horizon (which had folded in 1950). This magazine would be mainly literary in character, rely chiefly on British contributors and be aimed primarily at a British audience.7 The British bid was a strong one. W ith the exception of George Lichtheim’s The Twentieth Century (which was subsidised by the CCF), the NCL lacked an effective mouthpiece in Britain. The

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dom inant journal of political opinion, w ith a circulation of 85,000, was the neutralist, left-wing New Statesman and Nation. Moreover, there was a a genuine need in Britain for a ‘serious’ literary maga­ zine, Horizon, Penguin New Writing, The Cambridge Journal and Scrutiny all having recently ceased publication. The fact th at Lichtheim had proven unwilling to print cultural m aterial in The Twentieth Century further strengthened the British Society’s case.8 Also, of course, the British proposal was just the kind of cultural project which the CCF was inclined to favour. While accepting the need for a British editor, the CCF at first resisted the notion of moving the magazine’s base of operation from France to Britain. Late in February, however, Muggeridge, Fyvel and W arburg travelled to Paris ’to thrash the m atter out’ and eventually succeeded in persuading Executive Director Michael Josselson th at the new magazine should be edited in London.9 However the CCF refused altogether to abandon the plan for an American editorship. Consequently the British embarked on a search for a sympathetic American collaborator. Spender, the strongest candidate for the British editorship, wrote to his friend Allen Tate outlining the proposal for a co-edited magazine and telling him T think th at you and I could do . . . it better than anyone else’.10 Early in March Spender received confirmation of his appointment as British editor.11At this stage he was still hopeful th at Tate might be appointed alongside him .12 The CCF, however, insisted on its original nominee, and by the middle of March Spender and Kristol had been introduced and were conferring about editorial business.13 The British Society had prevailed over the international Congress to the extent th at the new magazine was to be literary as well as political and, while internationalist in outlook, would reflect mainly British interests. Nonetheless, the American editorship remained, filled by an appointee not of British choosing. This fact alone was enough to remind the British, if they needed reminding, th at the CCF had ultim ate control over the project. During the summer of 1953 Spender and Kristol corresponded regularly, debating w hat to call the new magazine, discussing its format, and identifying potential contributors. As might be ex­ pected, both editors were eager to publish ’nam es’. W ith this end in mind Spender approached W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and, indirectly (through Allen Tate), William


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Faulkner.14 Kristol particularly was anxious th at Eliot should con­ tribute to the first Issue, as if his name would legitimise the ven­ ture.15 Still, the editors were also aware th at If the magazine only published contributors ‘too identified w ith other publications - or even with their own reputations’16 then it would fail to convey an impression of existing in an organic relation to a particular intel­ lectual community. Concern on this score pervaded their discus­ sions about format. Kristol, for example, proposed a regular editorial departm ent, because ’it would give the magazine a “personality” [and] help establish a sense of community between the editors and readers of the magazine, which is absolutely essential'.17 W orries about ’impersonality’ also affected the editors’ choice of title. An early favourite, Outlook, was dropped because ’it too closely resembles Perspectives, th at miserable Ford Found­ ation journal’.18 The magazine’s name eluded the editors for some time. Witness would not do because it evoked W hittaker Chamber’s book of the same title, and thus conjured images of apocalyptic anti-Communism; a typical little magazine nam e such as Vista was inappropriate because it failed to suggest the inter­ national and political dimensions of the projected publication; and so on.19 ’Of course there’s always Intercourse’, Kristol suggested jokily, ’but I think we’d better not have any truck w ith th at.’20 Eventually the editors settled, w ithout m uch enthusiasm , on another suggestion of Kristol’s, Encounter.21 Meanwhile the leaders of the British affiliate intensified their efforts to usurp control of the new publication. The CCF and Frederick W arburg’s publishing house Seeker and W arburg worked out an arrangem ent whereby the former would act as the maga­ zine’s ’sponsor’ and the latter as its ’publisher’.22All was proceeding smoothly until W arburg began making preparations to house the new magazine in his firm’s offices. Prompted by Michael Josselson, Kristol wrote to W arburg demanding to know why such an arrangem ent was necessary and pointing out that ‘the editorial part of the magazine is quite distinct from the printing, distribution, circulation, etc.’23 It was eventually decided th at the magazine would have its own offices, in the Haymarket. Meanwhile Malcolm Muggeridge busied himself raising money from British sources with which to fund the magazine’s British editorship. As Muggeridge explained later, he was worried by the ‘preponderance of American influence in Encounter's direction’:

The N ew York Intellectuals and Encounter


In view of the financial support the Congress was giving the magazine, he [the American editor] was inevitably the senior partner in m anagerial m atters . . . W ith a view to correcting the balance, when an opportunity occurred to steer some British money into the kitty it seemed permissible, and even desirable, to accept.24 The British sponsors of Encounter included several private individu­ als (who 'sounded a very OK list of people’ to Spender) and the Daily Telegraph.25 Later on it emerged th at one of Encounter's patrons, Lord Rothschild, was channelling funds from British In­ telligence to the magazine in much the same way Julius ’Junky’ Fleischmann was laundering CIA money intended for the CCF. It is not clear w hether British Intelligence was acting on its own initiative or at the behest of the CIA. Still, this is no reason to disbelieve Muggeridge’s claim th at he personally viewed covert British funding as a means of securing Encounter a degree of inde­ pendence from American influence. The first issue of Encounter came out in October 1953 (the regu­ larity of Encounter's subsequent monthly appearances went in sharp contrast with the erratic publishing histories of such maga­ zines as PR and Politics). It met w ith a lukewarm reception. As Spender explained to a meeting of the CCF’s Executive Committee in 1955: There was am ongst the English intellectuals a suspicion of, and instinctive aversion against, all official or semi-official publications of organisations, and particularly in this case of a periodical sponsored by American funds which was to have a political a c ce n t. . . We were . . . criticised for being ’official-looking’, impersonal, and too ’anti-Communist’.26 W riting in The Spectator, Anthony Hartley claimed to have detected ’something of the pomposity of official culture’ in the magazine’s editorial comments, and remarked: ‘It would be a pity if Encounter, in its turn, were to become a mere weapon in the cold w ar.’27 An anonymous reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement criticised the negativism of Encounter's political contents - ideologically, the magazine constantly expressed ‘a liberalism whose main positive feature, at least, appears to be hatred and fear of Communism’.28 A. J. P. Taylor, in a review in The Listener, voiced suspicion that, despite the editors’ profession of a common love of liberty and


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respect for culture, ‘the practical Impulse which brought them to­ gether was anti-communism’.29 Some comment was dow nright hostile. Speaking on the BBC Third Programme, Graham Hough ‘called attention to the character of Encounter as a disguised coldw ar propaganda sheet’.30 A note in the Sunday Times ’A tticus’ column referred to the magazine as the ’police-review of Ameri­ can-occupied countries’.31 As Spender told his colleagues in the CCF, ’we were accused of bad fa ith . . . Consequently, a good m any British writers, whose support we need, held back for some time and would not write for us’.32 Nevertheless, Encounter had one incalculable advantage: as the reviewer for the TLS remarked, it met ’a real w ant’. Not only was there a demand from readers of such publications as the defunct Horizon for a new literary magazine, there was also a growing need amongst British writers for publishing outlets. Furtherm ore, Spender’s wide range of contacts with British, American and Asian literary communities, combined with his proven editorial talents (he had collaborated w ith Cyril Connolly on Horizon), augured well for the magazine’s future. Encounter soon acquired the reputation of printing literary m aterial of a consistently high standard. Even its most hostile critics commented favourably on the magazine’s literary contents. The gradual transform ation of The Spectator's attitude towards Encounter was indicative. In January 1954 An­ thony Hartley remarked à propos the magazine’s first three issues ‘The literary side of it has perked up considerably’. Six m onths later the same reviewer praised its experimentalism and adventurous­ ness.33 In August 1955 Spectator columnist ’Pharos’ declared Encounter ‘one of the very few monthlies of generalised intellectual interest in Britain today’.34 Meanwhile the new magazine’s circu­ lation climbed from 10,000 in 1953 to 14,000 in 1955 to 16,000 in 1958, making it the most popular topical literary review in the English language.35 By this stage even former detractors like Graham Hough were volunteering contributions. Most im portant though, at least in Spender’s reckoning, was Encounter's success in achieving ‘a reputation for good faith’.36 This is not to say th at Encounter had completely succeeded in effacing its institutional origins. The improbable editorial partner­ ship between Spender and Kristol remained glaringly ‘inauthentic’. Spender, a product of the English public schools, Oxbridge and Bloomsbury, was a literary figure of international distinction.

The N ew Y ork Intellectuals and Encounter


Kristol, reared in Brooklyn and educated in the American Trotsky­ ist movement and the lunchroom of City College, was virtually unknown in Britain. About all the two editors had in common was anti-Communlsm, yet even in this respect there were im portant differences between them. Despite his hatred of Stalinism, Spender, like many European NCL intellectuals, did not identify unreservedly w ith the American cause in the Cold War. Dislike of certain aspects of American culture,37 combined w ith the belief 'th a t communism was something right which had gone w rong', made him 'resent being called a "Cold W arrior'” .38Kristol, in contrast, was unequivo­ cal in his support for the US. Indeed, a recent Commentary article of his, ‘"Civil Liberties", 1952: A Study in Confusion’, which some had read as a sophisticated apology for McCarthyism, placed him on the right wing of the Intellectual community’s 'hard' anti­ com m unist tendency. As Peter Coleman has remarked, it is doubt­ ful in w hat real sense if any Kristol belonged to the NCL during the 1950s, so rapidly was he moving across the political spectrum from socialism towards the neo-conservatism w ith which his name is now inextricably associated.39 The incongruous pairing of Spender and Kristol was the clearest indication - clearer even the regularity of its monthly appearances - th at Encounter was an institutional creation. However, the terms of this partnership were very revealing as well. Early on it was decided th at there would be a rigid division of responsibilities be­ tween the editors, with Spender supervising the literary side of the magazine, and Kristol managing its political departm ents.40 In practice this arrangem ent proved highly problematic. To start with, there was the question of the proper ratio of political to literary contents. Spender suspected Kristol of exploiting his putative seniority as American co-editor to prioritise political material. 'Every m onth', he told a friend, T have the same battle to get in four pages of poetry’.41 Spender was also concerned about the nature of the political contributions Kristol was selecting for publication. For one thing, American writers were over-repre­ sented. For another, the tone and emphasis of these American pieces were, Spender felt, inappropriate for a British audience. Basically, they were too strident and too negative: In the long run the magazine will eventually be killed off by the boredom of articles about politics [by A m ericans]. . . I suppose though it is very disinterested of the Americans to


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arrange th at the American side of Encounter is so largely ill w ritten and transparently propagandist.42 British reviews of Encounter, which uniformly praised its literary and criticised its political contents, can only have confirmed Spender in his views. Yet as long as Kristol remained on the edit­ orial board, the magazine seemed condemned to repeat the same mistake of printing unduly negative political m aterial. T he diffi­ culty, I think, w ith Irving’, wrote Spender, ’is that, from our point of view, he is far too negative . . . I would, in fact, be hard put to it to say th at Irving had a positive view about anything’.43 Further complicating relations between the two editors was the inherent vagueness of the categories ’political’ and ’literary’: inevitably there were occasions when it was not clear into which editor’s area of responsibilities a particular contribution fell. Finally, there appears to have been a clash of editorial styles between Kristol and Spender. Evidently the former edited m anuscripts more vigorously than his British colleague. *[M]y dear co-editor’s . . . love of chopping things up’, complained Spender, ’keeps me awake at nights’.44 If Spender believed that Encounter's reputation was suffering as a result of American influence on it, American intellectuals (or, to be more precise, the New York Intellectuals) were equally firmly convinced th at the magazine was being mismanaged by their British counterparts. In 1955 Michael Josselson invited Norman Jacobs, one of Kristol’s successors as Executive Director of the ACCF, to prepare a report on Encounter's record of com batting anti-Americanism in Britain. The resulting document makes inter­ esting reading. According to Jacobs, Encounter had, as a result of printing certain articles overly critical of American culture while at the same time neglecting to report recent progressive changes in American society, failed both ’to offset the cliché th at Americans are barbarians’ and to provide *a sympathetic understanding of the role America m ust play as leader of the free world coalition’.45 However, the ACCF reserved its harshest criticisms of Encounter for its 1955 statem ent concerning the policies and activities of the CCF. At first the ACCF had hoped th at Encounter might make ’a significant contribution to the health of the Western community of nations by being a counterweight to the New Statesman and Nation, both as regards forthright opposition to Communist totali­ tarianism and support of America’s role in the free world’. Instead the magazine had shown an ’unwillingness to offend w hat it

The N ew York Intellectuals and Encounter


presumes are English sensibilities w ith explicit anti-Communism’ and has ‘published primarily literary material, often of questionable m erit’. This failure had earned it ‘resentm ent and dissatisfaction’.46 The ACCF’s reservations about Encounter were relayed to the CCF by Sidney Hook. At two meetings of the CCF’s Executive Committee, one in Rome in November 1953 and the other in Paris in January 1955, Hook presented the views of the ACCF and suggested changes to the magazine. On both occasions his recommendations were almost unanimously rejected. In Rome in 1953 Hook urged th at Encounter ‘make a more determined effort to tell its readers about the Congress and propagate the principles adopted at the founding Berlin Congress. Encounter m ust w ithstand the tem ptation to be­ come a purely literary magazine’. In response Malcolm Muggeridge defended the literary character of Encounter, and ‘argued against making the magazine overtly an organ of the Congress, because th at would destroy its effectiveness’. Raymond Aron and Stephen Spender supported this view.47 In Paris in 1955 Hook reported that many members of the ACCF regarded Encounter ‘as a “belletristic” [sic] organ. They think th at the purposes of the Congress are in no way served by it’. Again he was rebuked. Nicholas Nabokov (not coincidentally a close personal friend of Spender’s) remarked, some­ w hat maliciously: 1 am very glad th at it does not have the aspect of certain American magazines, because I do not think th at it would be read, if it were to take these aspects.’48Minoo Masani and Herbert Passin spoke enthusiastically of Encounter’s reception in Asia.49 Finally, Spender summarised his conception of the magazine: [R]eally Encounter ought to be a debate, a discussion carried on in good faith between American opinion and European opinion, leaving out the whole cold-war aspect of the thing . . . [I]t is simply too dangerous for us to publish anything in the nature of propaganda.50 The difficulties Hook experienced attem pting to mediate between the ACCF and the CCF were as nothing compared with the problems confronted by Kristol when actually editing Encounter. Not only did Spender command the support of the CCF’s Executive Commit­ tee, his conception of Encounter as a primarily cultural, British venture was bound to appeal to the London literati in whose com­ pany the New York Intellectual suddenly found himself. Nothing in Kristol’s experience of the rough-house sectarian milieu of the


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Intellectual community had prepared him for the polite, genteel animosity of the Oxbridge-Bloomsbury literary machine. (Shortly alter his arrival In London he had been given the nick-name ‘the Tory from Brooklyn’.) It is hardly surprising, therefore, th at Kristol gradually allowed himself to be persuaded by Spender's view of Encounter as essen­ tially a British literary magazine, and began to concede more and more editorial power to his colleague. The officers of the ACCF were dismayed by his defection to the other side. According to Spender, Kristol, while on leave in New York, 'got a terrible time from them for being “softened up” . . . in his capacity as an agent of the Cold W ar’.51 In addition to the harassm ent he was suffering in London and New York, Kristol was also under constant pressure from the CCF’s Parisian Secretariat. Michael Josselson seems to have fa­ voured an interpretation of Encounter's role which fell somewhere in between those of the Executive Committees of the ACCF and the CCF. While aware of the tactical need for restraint and indirection, and highly critical of the belligerent posture of the American Com­ mittee, Josselson naturally did not w ant to see CIA resources frit­ tered away on cultural projects unrelated to the Cold W ar, which was w hat Encounter, in the hands of British intellectuals, seemed in danger of becoming. In other words, he was seeking to harness and balance the countervailing forces of the New York Intellectual community and the British NCL. Evidently Josselson regarded the American editor as a potentially corrective influence on his British colleague and thus on the direction of the magazine, and conse­ quently was disappointed when Kristol appeared to steer the same course as Spender. In the early months of 1955 Josselson wrote a series of recrim inatory letters to Kristol, demanding th at Encounter give more coverage to political developments in Asia and Eastern Europe, and generally express a greater degree of support for the US in the Cold War: As far as the Congress publications go, Encounter is the weakest link in the chain - and this is the most im portant language. A good editor can’t have a supercilious attitude and judge all contributions in terms of his own omniscience.52 In the light of these conflicting pressures, it is not impossible th a t Kristol was secretly relieved when a movement was begun to retire him from the American co-editorship of Encounter.

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II Early in 1955 Josselson wrote to A rthur Schlesinger Jr requesting th at he sound out Dwight Macdonald about the possibility of his replacing Kristol as Encounter’s American editor. Spender was delighted by this development, telling Josselson: ‘The chance of having D. M. is the most amazing piece of good luck and should be seized/53 In Spender's opinion, Macdonald possessed precisely those qualities which Kristol so conspicuously lacked, namely positive views, and an established intellectual reputation; whereas Kristol was obviously an institutional appointee, Macdonald ‘writes and talks and meets people . . . like a person whom others cannot dismiss as a mere advocate or employee’.54 In other words, Mac­ donald’s appointment would, believed Spender, considerably en­ hance Encounter’s authenticity. Also, it cannot have escaped Spender’s notice th at Macdonald, an outspoken critic of the ACCF, was identified w ith the ‘soft’ tendency of the New York Intellectual community. The British editor probably hoped th at Macdonald would prove an ally in his campaign to turn Encounter away from the political future projected for it by Hook and, to a slightly lesser extent, Josselson. That said, there were, Spender m ust have realised, very great risks involved in bringing Macdonald to Encounter. The magazine’s relationship with its institutional patron, the CCF, required con­ stant and delicate renegotiation, yet Macdonald was notoriously jealous of his intellectual independence. Of all the New York Intel­ lectuals, he was among the most likely to chafe at external controls on his editorial freedom. Second, even if it was safe to assume th at he would not print an incessant stream of Cold W ar polemics, Macdonald could not be relied on to refrain from political comment altogether. Despite his growing interest in cultural criticism, he still possessed a lively interest in politics, especially the politically controversial.55 Third, his record of opposition to the ACCF was not in itself a guarantee of his usefulness to Encounter. Dissent, the journal of the left wing of the New York Intellectual community and more or less direct descendant of Macdonald’s Politics - had in fact proved to be a considerable nuisance to the British magazine. For example, in one issue Harold Rosenberg had accused Spender and Kristol of suppressing a letter by him to Encounter protesting its treatm ent of the Rosenberg case, and w ent on to allege that:


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‘In its sense of Cold W ar “responsibility" Couch Liberalism had learned to mimic the toughness of Red Front liberalism w ith its why-rock-the-boat cynicism.’56 Given this history of conflict be­ tween Encounter and Dissent, Spender might well have been alarmed had he known th at Lewis Coser, a former member of the Politics circle and a founder of Dissent, had remarked to Macdonald after hearing rum ours of the editorial reshuffle in London: T he magazine has a lot of “potential” and, once dekristolised [sic], can become a significant influence both in England and in this country.’57 If the embryonic neo-conservative Kristol occupied a political position too far to Spender’s right, the veteran radical Macdonald might turn out to be too far to his left. Nevertheless, the plan to manoeuvre Kristol out of Encounter moved ahead, with Josselson arranging to meet Macdonald in New York early in June. Spender, nervous th at he, Nabokov and Muggeridge might have ’oversold the idea of Dwight M. to Josselson’, and th at Josselson m ight feel ’he has been rushed off his feet’, wrote to Macdonald priming him for the interview: W hat I did w ant to explain to you is th at Mike will be anxious about your attitude to the Congress. You will probably wish to know w hat is their attitude to us. I think the answer is th at they expect us to keep in touch w ith them, and they keep in touch with us, and Mike, in his brusque way, will tell us th at there is not enough about Asia, etc. However, they have at no time forced us to publish anything we do not w ant to publish, and we have always been very independent of them. They criticise but do not submit m aterial or censor us in any way.58 Macdonald was grateful for the information: Thanks for the briefing on the Congress and its attitude to Encounter. Sounds positively idyllic. I mean the hands-off policy. Any other would make it impossible to put out a lively magazine, or even a very good one. As for mine tow ard the Congress, since I know very little of w hat the Congress has been up to, cannot say in detail. Yet the impression I have is that the Congress has criticised the American Committee for the same general reason I have, so th a t’s not too bad a basis for a beginning . . . The main thing is th at Encounter can make its way by itself, on the basis of its own qualities and

The N ew York Intellectuals and Encounter


interests, and through the ordinary channels of distribution, w ith or w ithout the blessings of committees.59 The meeting took place as planned and was, at least in Macdonald's Judgement, successful. Josselson outlined the aims of the CCF, as­ sured Macdonald th at 'the Congress would [not] throw its weight around so far as [his] own cultural freedom, as editor of Encounter, goes’, and told him he 'm ight consider the deal "practically" closed'. He also suggested th at Macdonald attend a CCF conference on ‘The Future of Freedom’ due to take place in Milan in September 1955, and write a report on it for Encounter.60 As might be expected these developments caused consternation on the 'hard' wing of the New York Intellecual community. Many members of the ACCF regarded Macdonald as politically undepend­ able; they also resented the fact th at his appointm ent appeared to be going ahead w ithout their having been consulted by the CCF.61 It emerged later th at Sidney Hook even threatened to resign from the CCF’s Executive Committee over the issue.62 The ACCF m ust have been relieved therefore when the campaign to replace Kristol w ith Macdonald ran into difficulties. W hether he was in­ fluenced by Hook’s threat to resign, or was instructed by a superior in the CIA, or simply changed his mind, is not clear, but for some reason Josselson, immediately after interviewing Macdonald, was converted to the ACCF’s belief th at he was not suited to the Ameri­ can editorship of Encounter. In a letter to Nabokov, Josselson stated: 'W hile I wholeheartedly agree th at we have to replace Kristol, I rem ain unconvinced as far as Dwight is concerned . . . [In fact] I absolutely refuse to hire Dwight at this point.’63 In the course of conversations with Josselson in New York late in June, Macdonald learned that: [T]here was some doubt as to w hether I was too m uch of the lone wolf type to be happy working w ith the Congress, also fears th at I conceived of Encounter as my own personal Journal like Politics and would resent any suggestions or intervention from the Congress. Although Josselson implied th at these objections had been raised by the CCF’s Executive Committee, Macdonald gradually realised th at it was in fact Josselson who was blocking his appointment: 'Maybe he got the impression from me th at I don’t take the Congress


The poUtical vanguard

seriously . . . I suppose I don’t take organisations very seriously, but am not clear w hat can be done about it’.64 Consequently the final decision regarding the American editor­ ship was deferred until September, when Macdonald attended the CCF Milan Conference.65 Eventually a compromise was worked out whereby Macdonald would Join Encounter for one year, from March 1956, as a ’contributing editor’, and Kristol was to stay on as American co-editor (but only after being given ‘such a heavy dose of frank treatm ent bordering on brutality th at a salutary change in his attitude can be expected’).66 Macdonald Immediately fur­ nished Josselson w ith evidence of the wisdom of this decision in the shape of his report on the Milan conference. The satirical tone of this article might be guessed from its title, ‘No Miracle in Milan’. In addition to rem arking laconically on the luxuriousness of the delegates’ accommodation, Macdonald also made m uch of the inat­ tentiveness of the Conference audience during certain speeches. Not surprisingly, this irreverent display provoked dismay at En­ counter. According to Spender, Kristol paced the magazine’s offices distractedly m uttering: ‘They’re trapped. We have to publish it. They can’t get out of it.’67 After discussions involving both editors, Nicholas Nabokov, François Bondy, Melvin Lasky and Herbert Passin, Kristol returned the m anuscript to Macdonald w ith a long list of proposed alterations.68 There ensued a prolonged period of negotiation,69 causing such delay th at the editors were forced to print a hastily w ritten substitute piece by Edward Shils. ‘No Miracle in Milan’ eventually appeared, considerably revised, in the Decem­ ber 1955 issue.70 By this stage Macdonald’s departure for London had been moved back a third time, to June 1956, as a result of his being invited to teach at Northwestern University during the spring quarter.71 His arrival was probably awaited w ith some trepidation. In the event Macdonald’s year at Encounter not only passed uneventfully but appears even, judging by the expressions of regret which accompanied his departure from the magazine in the sum­ mer of 1957, to have been highly successful. If, however, any hopes of his being reconsidered as a perm anent replacem ent for Kristol had arisen as a result of his editorial performance in London, they were soon squashed by an incident w hich occurred immediately after his departure. Macdonald’s first assignment for Encounter after returning home was to write a ‘New York Letter’ describing his impressions of the

The N ew York Intellectuals and Encounter


US in light of his recent absence in Europe. The resulting article, ‘America! America!’, was highly critical of many aspects of Ameri­ can society and culture. It began w ith the assertion: *We are an unhappy people. . . a people w ithout style, w ithout a sense of w hat is and w hat is not hum anly satisfying. . . There is a terrible shape­ lessness about American life.’ It then set about proving this claim by citing, inter alia, Americans’ (alleged) bad m anners, US crime rates, the ugliness of American buildings, Americans’ lack of community spirit, their cult of youth, the naivety of US inter­ national conduct, the bureaucratisation of American unions, and the banality of American advertising. Hence Macdonald emphati­ cally articulated the New York Intellectuals’ elitist disdain for 1950s American ‘mass’ culture. ‘America! America!’ was as far from being ‘celebratory’ or ‘affirmative’ as it is possible to imagine.72 Encounter accepted ‘America! America!’ for publication w ith the proviso th at it be cut in certain places.73 Some time later, however, in April 1958, Spender wrote to Macdonald telling him th at Nicho­ las Nabokov had read the article and ‘become very upset’. After reading it for a second time himself, Spender had come to share Nabokov’s opinion th at it was too one-sidedly critical of American society and culture, and now believed Macdonald should rewrite it so as to make it more balanced.74 Macdonald was outraged by this apparent violation of Encounter’s editorial independence, and told Spender: A good way to edit a magazine is for the editors to decide w hat they w ant and then to print it, w ithout benefit of the counsel, two months later, of General Secretary and Grand Master of International Decorum Nicholas Nabokov . . . In future, I suggest the London office consult the Paris office at once, on receipt of a ‘controversial’ ms, so as to find out immediately w hat it thinks.75 Immediately afterwards, Macdonald received a letter from Kristol informing him th at he had raised the issue w ith Nabokov and Josselson again, and th at Encounter would print his article after all.76 The business appeared to be closed. Two months later, however, in June 1958, Kristol wrote to Mac­ donald again, this time to tell him Encounter had reconsidered its decision to print ‘America! America!’: ‘In view of current negotia­ tions for Foundation support, it would be highly inadvisable, and


The political vanguard.

perhaps even fatal to the continued existence of the magazine itself - the Foundations not being interested in having Europeans and Asians think worse of America than they already do.'77 Hence the article had been accepted, rejected, ‘re-accepted. . . and then, three m onths later, again rejected'.7* By this point Macdonald’s anger had given way to sardonic amusement: 'You'd think USA was Venezuela, such touchy national pride’, he remarked wryly to a friend. 'Especially nice th at the censorship is by a congress for cultural freedom!’79 Determined to find a publisher for his article, Macdonald approached The Twentieth Century in London and Dis­ sent in New York. It was immediately accepted by both magazines. Dissent printed 'America! America!’ beneath a note by Macdonald relating how Encounter had turned it down after coming under pressure from officers of the CCF (‘its front-office M etternichs’) who feared th at it might antagonise the foundations which sponsored the organisation. 'I’m sorry to feel obliged to make all this public. . . [but] I think readers have a right to know when a magazine makes an editorial decision for extraneous reasons, especially this kind of reason.’*0 Macdonald’s protest at this perceived infringement of editorial freedom appalled Encounter’s editors. Spender in particular deeply resented the im putation th at he had been party to an abuse of the sacred principle of intellectual independence. In a ‘hystericalbitchy letter’*1 to Macdonald, in which he variously accused the American of ingratitude, arrogance and treating his year at Encounter 'as a sabbatical’, Spender insisted th at Nabokov's com­ ments to him about 'America! America!’ were by way of friendly advice, not an official directive. The fuss w hich had resulted from this innocent exchange of views seemed to Spender a typical in­ stance of the controversial atmosphere th a t surrounded the New York Intellectuals: To me there is something a bit nauseating about the kind of internecine recrim inations between you and old colleagues who address one another chummily by Christian names whilst making brutal accusations of philistinism, e t c . . . . I do rather resent the fact th at association w ith you seems to drag one into polemics of a kind th at sound like intestinal rumblings. At your age surely you ought to be free of having to squabble w ith ‘Paul’ and 'Harold’ about w hether or not you like kitsch.*2

The N ew York Intellectuals and Encounter


Although angered by Spender’s personal recrim inations, and un­ convinced by his account of Nabokov’s motives, Macdonald agreed to revise the note prefacing ’America! America!’ before it was pub­ lished in The Twentieth Century, omitting m ention of the CCF’s fears about withdrawal of foundation support.83 Unfortunately this attem pt at damage lim itation came too late. Word of Macdonald’s Dissent comments had already got out in London, causing a revival of the hostile attitude towards Encounter th at had greeted it on its first appearance. This feeling intensified when Norman Birnbaum, an American sociologist teaching at the London School of Economics, wrote a public letter of protest to the CCF, which was published in the socialist periodical the Universities and Left Review. Bimbaum’s letter, as well as quoting the Dissent note in its entirety, read in part: W hat the Congress for . . . has done, of course, is to give evi­ dence for the widely held view th at it is more interested in ideological apologetics than in the substance of the great spiritual issues of our time. It talks liberty, and then acts as if liberty consisted in the recognition of Mr Dulles’ necessity. It seems to subscribe to something very like a Stalinist view of the truth: true is, w hatever serves the interests of the Party. The Party is different, the reasoning unfortunately rather less so.84 For Spender this turn of events was nothing less than disastrous. As he explained in a letter to Macdonald, he and his European friends had been striving to convert the CCF into an authentic intellectual community, and Encounter into an authentic intel­ lectual magazine: The Congress . . . was founded, as you know, in circumstances which made it look like a simple antt-communist-at-any-price organisation. But my colleagues . . . have gradually widened it into a society which conducts discussions amongst people w ith very differing opinions . . . [Also] we have made Encounter a magazine in which m any different points of view can be expressed. This had been accomplished, Spender believed, in the face of con­ siderable difficulties. On the one hand, there were the constraints imposed by institutional patronage:


The political vanguard

[I]t is always a struggle to know how far we can go in certain directions, because an international organisation w hich is sponsored by Foundations, has a whole complex of responsibilities. On the other hand, there was European intellectuals’ suspicion of an institutionally sponsored venture th at was also perceived as an unw anted political intervention by a foreign power: ‘We have al­ ways been surrounded by people who are glad to m aintain th a t we are a pressure group for promoting American policies’. Mac­ donald’s absurd overreaction to a routine negotiation of the pa­ tronage relationship had Jeopardised the precarious balancing act Encounter had so skilfully performed. ‘W hat you have done’, Spender told him, ‘is to exploit the confused situation about your article . . . in order to lend colour to the talk against us’.85 The intensity of the British response to his Dissent note had the effect, it seems, of surprising and unnerving Macdonald, and after consulting Encounter's editors he set about drafting a letter to the Universities and Left Review disassociating himself from Bim baum ’s protest.86However, he still could not agree with Spender and Kristol about the reasons for their rejection of his article. W hereas they claimed th at they had rejected it on journalistic grounds alone, he insisted (correctly, as it happens) th at they had been influenced by the wish of the CCF’s officers to avoid upsetting their foundation patrons.87 Eventually a letter by him was published in the spring 1959 issue of the Universities and Left Review alongside communi­ cations from Spender and Kristol, Nicholas Nabokov and Birn­ baum. The editors asserted th at there was no ‘question of Encounter receiving “directives’’ from its sponsors . . . The decision [not to publish ‘America! America!’] was their own’.88Macdonald adm itted th at he had ‘got the impression th a t Paris was more in the picture than it was’, and apologised ‘for jumping to conclusions'. None­ theless, he still believed th at the issue of ‘foundation support was w ithout doubt one of the reasons’ for the editors’ decision.89 Birn­ baum, likewise, confessed he had been hasty in judging Encounter, but repeated his allegation th at the magazine tended to apologise for the US.90 After the publication of these letters, the m atter was dropped, and the row petered out. Soon afterwards Michael Josselson appointed his friend Melvin Lasky to Encounter's American editorship, hoping thereby to restore order to the magazine’s affairs. Still, the damage had been done: the CCF’s claim to represent

The N ew York Intellectuals and Encounter


the cause of cultural freedom had been placed in question, and Encounter’s reputation for authenticity severely compromised. Spender m ust by now have seriously regretted his scheming to replace Irving Kristol w ith a more pliable and reputable American co-editor. Macdonald's readiness to protest threats to intellectual independence m eant th at his appointm ent had the opposite of its intended effect, making Encounter appear less rather than more like an authentic British magazine. Similarly, had the CIA reviewed the performance of the New York Intellectuals as Cultural Cold W ar­ riors in the wake of the *Encounter row ’, it too might have had reason to doubt the prudence of its decision to use them as 'u n ­ witting assets’. The ACCF had proved a constant irritant to the CCF; Irving Kristol had turned out to be an unreliable agent of American interests; and Dwight Macdonald had behaved like a loose cannon. Norman Birnbaum m ight just as well have been describing a CIA operative’s feelings about the NCL as his own when he commented: I myself find it hard to believe th at the defence of the west is in good hands when these consist of those New York Jews whose devotion to America is matched only by their con­ spicuous w ant of all the American virtues, aided by th at section of the British intelligentsia - a large one, I fear recruited from those boys who weren’t good at rugby at boarding school.91

UI The Cultural Cold W ar was a far more complex and problematic set of events than is usually supposed. The US’s attem pts to win the hearts and minds of neutralists and fellow-travellers around the world met w ith a num ber of different responses. The most common of these was resistance: foreign intellectuals did not respond well to American political interventions in their affairs, and were in any case prejudiced against official or semi-official cultural activities, considering them inauthentic. For example, the magazine Perspectives failed to win hearts and minds because it was perceived both as a covert attem pt at political interference and an artificial attem pt to simulate an ’organic’ cultural venture. A nother response to the US Cultural Cold W ar effort was appropri­ ation, th at is using official American patronage for purely domestic


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purposes. Hence Encounter's success should not necessarily be in ­ terpreted as a victory for the CIA. The main reason th a t it became so popular in Britain was th at British NCL intellectuals bent it to their own ends, stopping the gap left by Horizon w ith it, and giving it the appearance of authenticity. It is not enough to read a product of the Cultural Cold W ar like Encounter as an unmediated expres­ sion of US Ideology; rather it represented an ongoing, complex negotiation of European and American concerns and needs. Likewise, earlier accounts of the Cultural Cold W ar have tended to simplify the role played in it by the American NCL, the New York Intellectuals. W hat these accounts share in common is a tendency to underestim ate the element of continuity between the Intellectuals' contribution to the Cold W ar and their past radical activities. On the one hand, the programme of autonom ous radical vanguard merged easily w ith th at of state-sponsored defenders of western intellectual freedom - much as the Intellectuals’ identity as cultural avant-garde had slipped imperceptibly into th at of metropolitan high-culture fashion-makers. Even the typically adversarial, confrontational character of the Intellectuals’ earlier positions and rhetoric proved well suited to the Cultural Cold W ar. On the other hand, enough of their commitment to radicalism remained th at a sub-group of them, a loose alliance of gentile dissidents, Jewish mavericks and young radicals, grouped around the magazines Politics, and later Dissent, valiantly tried to m aintain an oppositional political stance during the 1940s and 1950s. More­ over, as the above chapter has sought to show, the Intellectuals’ continuing devotion to the ideal of independence, particularly in its guise as editorial freedom, combined w ith their proprietorial attitude towards anti-Communism, constantly subtracted from their usefulness as Cultural Cold W arriors, or CIA unw itting assets. Even at Encounter magazine, the very site of their cooptation - the scene of the crime, as it were - there was evidence exonerating them of the most serious charges brought by later generations of radicals. Notes 1 François Bondy and Minoo Masani, report to CCF Executive Com­ mittee, n.d., ACCF Papers, Tamiment Library, New York University. 2 ACCF Executive Committee minutes. 28 January 1953, ACCF Papers.

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3 ACCF Executive Committee minutes, 16 February 1953, ACCF Papers. 4 ACCF Executive Committee minutes, 28 January 1953, ACCF Papers. 5 William Phillips, A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Literary Ufe (New York: Stein. 1983) 153. 6 ACCF Executive Committee minutes, 30 January 1953, ACCF Papers. 7 ACCF Executive Committee minutes, 16 February 1953, ACCF Papers. 8 Peter Coleman, The Uberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Free­ dom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe (New York: Free Press, 1989) 59. 9 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 26 February 1953, ACCF Papers. 10 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 20 February 1953, Allen Tate Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton. 11 Stephen Spender, Journals 1939-1983 (London: Faber, 1985) 125. 12 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 8 March 1953, Tate Papers. 13 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 16 March 1953, ACCF Papers. 14 Stephen Spender, letter to Irving Kristol, 5 April 1953, ACCF Papers. 15 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 10 April 1953, ACCF Papers. 16 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 27 March 1953, ACCF Papers. 17 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 24 March 1953, ACCF Papers. 18 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 25 March 1953, ACCF Papers. 19 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 27 March 1953, ACCF Papers. 20 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 24 April 1953, ACCF Papers. 21 Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender. 24 April 1953, ACCF Papers. Encounter was Kristol’s suggestion, not, as Malcolm Muggeridge has claimed, Natasha Spender’s. Malcolm Muggeridge, ‘When I Hear the Word “Gun” I Reach for my Culture’, New Statesman 19 May 1967: 681. 22 Coleman, Uberal Conspiracy 61. 23 Irving Kristol, letter to Frederick Warburg, 4 May 1953, ACCF Papers. 24 Muggeridge, ‘When I Hear the Word “Gun’” 681.


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25 Stephen Spender. ‘A Conversation with Stephen Spender’. The Review 23 (1970): 29. 26 Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol, ’The Editors’ Reflections on Encounter’, report to CCF Executive Committee, n.d.. ACCF Papers. 27 Anthony Hartley, rev. of Encounter, Spectator 9 October 1953: 407-8. 28 ‘Negative Liberalism', editorial. Times Literary Supplement 9 October 1953: 645. 29. A. ). P. Taylor. ‘A New Voice for Culture’. Listener 8 October 1953: 599. 30 Graham Hough, letter. Listener 19 October 1967: 504. 31 Quoted in Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 1 March n.y.. Tate Papers. Criticism was not always expressed in such an overt form. For example, it is possible to detect an oblique reference to Encounter in a review of an anthology of Partisan Review articles, The New Partisan Reader, by V. S. Pritchett: ‘It [PR] has never been dulled by that organised culture-forcing which gives the more or less officially subsidised inter­ national reviews a painful taste of the blanket: in other words it is run by persons of idiosyncrasy and not by an unmagnetic committee of world well-wishers.’ New York Times Book Review 4 December 1953: 4. 32 Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol, ‘The Editors’ Reflections on Encounter’, report to CCF Executive Committee, n.d.. ACCF Papers. 33 Anthony Hartley, rev. of Encounter, Spectator 22 January 1954: 107; Hartley, rev., Spectator 2 July 1954: 36. 34 ‘Pharos’, ‘A Spectator’s Notebook’, Spectator 12 August 1955:213. 35 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 77. 36 Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol, ‘The Editors’ Reflections on Encounter’, report to CCF Executive Committee, n.d.. ACCF Papers. 37 See Spender, Journals 103. 38 Stephen Spender. The Thirties and After (London: Macmillan, 1978) 160. 39 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 63. 40 In the course of their correspondence during the early summer of 1953, while the editors were discussing potential contributors, Kristol cheerfully abdicated responsibility for Encounter’s literary contents. ‘I am delighted to pass this responsibility entirely over to you.’ Irving Kristol, letter to Stephen Spender, 27 March 1953, ACCF Papers. 41 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 26 January n.y.. Tate Papers. 42 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 26 January n.y., Tate Papers. 43 Stephen Spender, letter to Sidney Hook, 5 June 1955, Dwight Mac­ donald Papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale. 44 Stephen Spender, letter to Allen Tate, 26 January n.y., Tate Papers.

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45 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 72. 46 Draft of ACCF statement for CCF, 6 January 1955, ACCF Papers. 47 CCF Executive Committee minutes, 26 November 1953, ACCF Papers. 48 CCF Executive Committee minutes, 24 January 1955, ACCF Papers. 49 Herbert Passin, Encounter’s representative in Japan, prepared a re­ port for the 1955 meeting of the CCF's Executive Committee entitled4En­ counter in Asia4(n.d., ACCF Papers). While admitting that the magazine had attracted little interest in several Asian countries, Passin nonetheless advised that it should stay on its present course, pointing to its success in India, where it already had a circulation of at least 1,000, as proof of its potential popularity in Asia. 4[T]he greatest appeal of Encounter lies in its uncompromising integrity and quality, the fact that it makes only m inim u m concessions to expediency. . . To attempt to accommodate too many divergent interests will water the magazine down to the point where it loses all character.' 50 CCF Executive Committee minutes, 24 January 1955, ACCF Papers. In a report entitled ‘The Editors’ Reflections on Encounter’ (n.d., ACCF Papers), Spender amplified his reasons for believing that Encounter should avoid an overtly political and American orientation. First, this was the general feeling of British writers sympathetic with the magazine. ‘Were we to be sectarian, we would end up by speaking to, and listening to, ourselves.' Second, almost all political points of view are represented in existing British newspapers. ‘There is simply no desire among even a small section of the British public for a political monthly.’ Third, certain pro­ duction problems made political topicality difficult to achieve. ‘There is full employment among British printers, who in any case do not use the most modem productive techniques.' Allowing for distribution, an article written for Encounter in the middle of, say, January would not reach the magazine’s Indian readers until the beginning of April. Fourth, Encounter’s Asian readers were more receptive to cultural than political influence. Fifth, it was important that the magazine retain its distinctively British character, otherwise its international audience would receive the impres­ sion that it lacked roots in a particular national intellectual community. Finally, Encounter had to avoid negativism. ‘It is the demand on all sides. . . that we should be not merely critical, but also constructive. This means that we must speak for Culture, if we wish to plead the case for cultural freedom.’ 51 Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 5 June 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 52 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 74. 53 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 74-5.


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54 Stephen Spender, letter to Sidney Hook. 5 June 1955, Macdonald Papers. 55 In editorial conferences attended by Macdonald prior to his arrival in London, he generally urged that Bncounter become more Journalistic, controversial and topical. Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 25 April 1955, Macdonald Papers; Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 28 September 1955, Macdonald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, ‘Things I might write for Encounter’ (notes for a conference of CCF maga­ zine editors in Paris, January 1956), n.d., Macdonald Papers. 56 See Harold Rosenberg, The Tradition of the New (London: Paladin. 1970) 204-6. In a personal reply to Rosenberg Kristol pointed out that the supposedly suppressed letter had been cast in the form of a private communication and had not contained any indication that it was meant for publication. Irving Kristol. letter to Harold Rosenberg, 17 November 1955, Macdonald Papers. 57 Lewis Coser, letter to Dwight Macdonald. 4 December 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 58 Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 27 May 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 59 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 2 June 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 60 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 12 June n.y. [prob­ ably 1955], Macdonald Papers. 61 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 2 June 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 62 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 76. 63 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 76-7. 64 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 30 June 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 65 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 30 June 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 66 Coleman, Liberal Conspiracy 77; Michael Josselson, letter to Dwight Macdonald, n.d. [probably September 1955], Macdonald Papers. 67 Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 5 October 1955, Macdonald Papers. 68 Irving Kristol, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 7 October 1955, Mac­ donald Papers. 69 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Irving Kristol, 13 October 1955, Mac­ donald Papers; Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 18 October 1955, Macdonald Papers; Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 26 October 1955, Macdonald Papers. Among Kristol's many objections to Macdonald’s article was one relating to a hostile reference to the recent

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anti-Peronist uprising in Argentina. Kristol remarked: 1 am no expert on Argentine affairs, but the revolution there hardly seems to call for the kind of comment you make . . . It is true that the uprising there was led by an Argentinian general, rather than by Hannah Arendt, but we oughtn’t to allow such things to depress unduly.’ Macdonald replied: ‘I still think that revolution . . . not worth applauding because of the Catholic-cum-mllitary-cum-rtch people complexion. Nor do I expect Han­ nah Arendt to lead it (really, Irving, such Shactmanian tactics!)’ Irving Kristol, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 7 October 1955, Macdonald Papers: Dwight Macdonald, letter to Irving Kristol, 13 October 1955, Macdonald Papers. 70 Edward Shils, ’Letter from Milan: The End of Ideology’, Encounter 5.5 (1955): 52-8. Dwight Macdonald, ‘No Miracle in Milan’, Encounter 5.6 (1955): 68-74. 71 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Michael Josselson, 18 October 1955, Macdonald Papers. 72 Dwight Macdonald, ‘America! America!’, The Twentieth Century 164 (1958): 309-24, 309. 73 Irving Kristol, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 18 February 1958, Mac­ donald Papers. 74 Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 11 April 1958, Mac­ donald Papers. 75 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 16 April 1958, Mac­ donald Papers. 76 Irving Kristol, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 17 April 1958, Mac­ donald Papers. Macdonald wrote to Kristol: ‘Now that you have so hand­ somely and voluntarily conceded that whole point, I feel like a man who kicks in a door only to find it was unlocked all the time.’ Dwight Mac­ donald, letter to Irving Kristol, 21 April n.y. [probably 1958], Macdonald Papers. 77 Irving Kristol, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 12 June 1958, Macdon­ ald Papers. 78 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Irving Kristol, 19 December n.y. [prob­ ably 1958], Macdonald Papers. 79 Dwight Macdonald, draft of letter to Irving Kristol, 24 June n.y. [probably 1958], Macdonald Papers. 80 Quoted in Norman Birnbaum, ‘An Open Letter to the Congress of Cultural Freedom’, November 1958, Macdonald Papers. 81 Dwight Macdonald, draft of letter to Bernard Wall, 4 December 1958, Macdonald Papers. 82 Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 28 November 1958, Macdonald Papers.


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83 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Stephen Spender, 4 December 1958, Macdonald Papers. 84 Norman Birnbaum, ‘An Open Letter to the Congress of Cultural Freedom’, November 1958, Macdonald Papers. 85 Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 4 December 1958, Macdonald Papers. In another letter to Macdonald, Spender extended his defence of Encounter ’Any organisation which is sponsored and therefore dependent on extraneous funds is bound to encounter difficulties, and whoever works for it is bound to come up against the necessity of making compromises from time to time. . . The fact is that it is impossible to have a magazine in this country which is not given financial support. In spite of the difficulties of this. Encounter has much more freedom than the London Magazine under the Daily Mirror, which finally withdrew all its help because literature is highbrow, and we are much freer than most newspapers, which have trustees and directors attaching them to a par­ ticular policy. My own feeling is that Encounter has proved its inde­ pendence by its achievements, above all by the extent to which we have promoted a debate between leftist and rightist points of view.’ Stephen Spender, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 23 December 1958, Macdonald Papers. 86 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Universities and Left Review, 16 Decem­ ber 1958, Macdonald Papers. 87 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Norman Birnbaum, 8 January 1958, Macdonald Papers. 88 Irving Krlstol and Stephen Spender, letter to Universities and Left Review, n.d. [probably January 1959], Macdonald Papers. 89 Dwight Macdonald, letter to Universities and Left Review, 2 7 January 1959, Macdonald Papers. 90 Norman Birnbaum, letter to Universities and Left Review, n.d. [prob­ ably January 1959], Macdonald Papers. 91 Norman Birnbaum, letter to Dwight Macdonald, 10 January 1959, Macdonald Papers.

Epilogue Showing how the New York Intellectuals confounded attem pts by the CIA to use them in the Cultural Cold W ar is not the same as proving th at they remained independent during the 1950s. For it is obvious they did not. In every sphere of intellectual activity, both political and cultural, foreign and domestic, there is evidence the Intellectuals succumbed to institutionalisation. Still it would be inaccurate, not to say grossly unfair, to conclude from this th at they had deliberately conspired to betray their radical principles, or ‘sell out to the establishm ent’. After all, the causes they advo­ cated in the Cold W ar era were the same ones they had advocated during the supposedly ‘purer’ days of the 1930s - Modernism, anti-Stalinism, the defence of cultural freedom and so on. It was not they who had changed; rather it was the institutions. Just as government operatives engaged in a Cold W ar w ith the Soviet Union discerned a use for their reputation as independent anti­ com m unists, so cultural institutions w anting either to sell or teach the products of the avant-garde exploited their knowledge of Modernism. As the m aterial histories of their magazines demon­ strate, the Intellectuals’ chances of transcending the hegemonic processes of professionalisation, consum erisation and ethnic as­ similation during this age of political and cultural settlement, of severing ‘the ties of class and body and institutional affiliation’,1 were practically nil. If the New York Intellectuals are to be accused of error, it should surely be for mistakenly assuming it was possible, or for th at m atter desirable, to detach themselves from American society in the first place. Considering the m arginal, non-institutional position in which they found themselves in the 1930s, it is not hard to see why they should have affiliated themselves w ith the illustrious modem intellectual tradition of autonom ous dissent. In the years after the Second World W ar, however, it became increasingly apparent th at such a code of intellectual practice was no longer



practicable, or even relevant. Given the changes th at had occurred in American society, it is not surprising th at the doctrine of inde­ pendence to which the Intellectuals had sacrificed themselves was superceded in the 1960s by a ‘new gram m ar of dissent' which eschewed the 'hard, guilt-ridden school of cultural m aturity' and 'vanguardist structures of political authority' in favour of ‘the val­ ues of community, liberation, and personal empowerment’.2 Yet, with a few exceptions, most notably Dwight Macdonald, the Intel­ lectuals made little or no attem pt to revise their basic strategy, or even communicate w ith the New Left, appearing content for the most part to expound the same old causes while furiously denounc­ ing any pretenders to the m antle of intellectual opposition. This failure of im agination has culminated in the 1980s and 1990s w ith the spectacle of neo-conservative Intellectual epigones like Norman Podhoretz advising, or more accurately legitimising, the foreign policy of successive Republican presidents, and the now Boston University-based Partisan Review routinely decrying m ulti­ culturalism in the name of a monolithic intellectual tradition.3 This is why recent polemics4 lam enting the disappearance of institutionally non-affiliated, ‘public’ intellectuals, and the pre­ sent-day ascendancy of professional, specialised academics, are so unhelpful. It is not their historical accuracy th at is in question: no one seriously doubts th at American intellectual life has under­ gone a steady process of institutionalisation, or ‘incorporation’. W hat is contestable is their assumption th a t professionalisation is a disaster from which American political and cultural life will never recover. As this book has tried to show, the very idea of the detached, autonom ous dissident, the free-floating Luftmensch, is itself problematic. To bejÿn with there is the m aterial impossibility of ‘living on air' - and the countless negotiations w ith patrons, and domestic oppressions, th at result from the attem pt. Also, the concept is implicitly elitist and potentially authoritarian; it spells practical ineffectuality, and, as was seen during the 1950s, on both the cultural and the political fronts, it has the paradoxical effect of making intellectuals more rather than less susceptible to institutionalisation. In any event the m ain task today m ust surely be, now th a t institutionalisation has undeniably and irreversibly occurred, not to waste valuable energy m ourning the passing of the public intellectual, but rather to evolve a new cultural and political



programme th at takes the intellectual's institutional location into account. Several steps have already been made in this direction. Michel Foucault has advanced the concept of the 'specific intel­ lectual’, a professional knowledge worker w ith expertise th at can be utilised at local level by particular groups engaged in specific struggles. Pierre Bourdieu has outlined his ideas for a loose, decentred, international 'collective of intellectuals, combining the talents of the ensemble of specific intellectuals’.5 Building on the insights of these and other post-modern French thinkers, a num ber of American critics have begun the job of constructing an opposi­ tional identity for institutionally grounded intellectuals. Bruce Robbins has cleared the ground for this project by successfully establishing the theoretical possibility of adversarial, public intel­ lectual work being conducted w ithin the modern university. Andrew Ross has posited the notion of 'new intellectuals’ practising an imperfect, pragmatic, versatile politics of knowledge - a ‘post­ modern picture of multiple and uneven activities, loyalties, oblig­ ations, desires, and responsibilities’.6 Although not always as concrete as might be wished, and sometimes verging on the selfjustifying or apologetic, these proposals at least have the very im portant virtue of seeing professionalisation as a start, not an end-point. However, this is not to say th at the memory of the New York Intellectuals - the most recent and famous incarnations of the 'public intellectual’ - should be forgotten or discarded. Their best work retains its brilliance and acuity even today. Much of Philip Rahv’s output, for example, can be counted as Marxist cultural criticism of the very highest order, on a par w ith th at of the better-known Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School, or of more recent Marxists such as Frederick Jameson and Terry Eagleton. Similarly, the writings of Dwight Macdonald and other members of the Politics circle m erit careful rereading in the light of current political concerns. The fiction of Mary McCarthy, it has also been suggested, has been unfairly neglected. Second, and more impor­ tantly, it would be wasteful and foolish to write off the New York Intellectuals’ communal style. True, many of their pronouncem ents were bullying, hectoring and macho. Still, their idiom also possessed many positive qualities - clarity of expression, breadth of reference, a keen sense of principle, moral certitude, feistiness which the discourse of today’s professional intellectual typically


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lacks. To recover and seek to em ulate this aspect of the Intellectuals' legacy would be in keeping with the pragmatic, flexible nature of the 'new intellectuals” project. As Bourdieu has advised, 'one need not choose between being total intellectuals, as created and em­ bodied by Sartre . . . and specific Intellectuals such as Foucault m eant them ';7it is perfectly possible to mix or combine both images, the total, public Intellectual, or the specific Intellectual, as circum­ stances dictate. Finally, it might be argued th at the New York Intellectuals' emphasis on autonom y and universalisai contains a valuable corrective to the sometimes excessive particularism of re­ cent m ulticultural movements. After all, some attem pt surely needs to be made today to dem arcate a common, International, transcen­ dent ground where the various specific groups can meet, debate and collaborate. It is Interesting to note in this connection th a t Bruce Robbins has resurrected the term 'Cosmopolitanism' to de­ note the new code of intellectual oppositionality he, Ross and others are trying to devise.* But there is a limit to w hat the New York Intellectuals can teach us. In the end they were a radical vanguard who, after the W ar, found themselves living in the age of consensus; cultural Modern­ ists who for most of their lives inhabited post-modernity. 'One shorthand way of describing this situation’, writes Irving Howe, 'a cause of both their fevered brilliance and fevered instability, is to say th at they came late. ’9 Hence while we m ight stand to learn m uch about the past from the Intellectuals, we m ust look elsewhere for guidance into the future.

Notes 1 Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 1989) 223. 2 Ross, No Respect 221, 222. The New Left’s perception of the Old is well summed up in the following comment by young novelist Jeremy Lamer: ‘They appear to be tedious, tired of themselves, full of self-hate, and chained to an idealism so abstract that it precludes love of life.’ John Patrick Diggins, The Rise and Fall of the American Left (New York: Norton, 1992) 233. 3 For information about Podhoretz’s recent political activities see Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 354-8. For an indicative statement of PR’s current cultural

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24 7

anxiety, see William Phillips’ contribution to the symposium on ’The Changing Culture of the University’, Partisan Review 58 (1991): 192-203. 4 See for example Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals: American Cul­ ture in the Age of Academe (New York: Basic, 1987); or James Atlas, ’The Changing World of the New York Intellectuals’, New York Times Magazine 25 August 1985: 22+. 5 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Corporatism of the Universal: The Role of In­ tellectuals in the Modem World’, Telos 81 (1989): 108. 6 Brace Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Cul­ ture (London: Verso, 1993); Ross, No Respect 230. 7 Bourdieu, ‘Corporatism’ 108. 8 Robbins, Secular Vocations 180-97. 9 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography (London: Seeker, 1983) 151.


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lacks. To recover and seek to em ulate this aspect of the Intellectuals' legacy would be in keeping with the pragmatic, flexible nature of the ‘new intellectuals'' project. As Bourdieu has advised, ‘one need not choose between being total intellectuals, as created and em­ bodied by Sartre . . . and specific intellectuals such as Foucault m eant them ';7it is perfectly possible to mix or combine both images, the total, public intellectual, or the specific Intellectual, as circum­ stances dictate. Finally, it might be argued th at the New York Intellectuals' emphasis on autonomy and universalism contains a valuable corrective to the sometimes excessive particularism of re­ cent m ulticultural movements. After all, some attem pt surely needs to be made today to dem arcate a common, international, transcen­ dent ground where the various specific groups can meet, debate and collaborate. It is interesting to note in this connection th a t Bruce Robbins has resurrected the term 'Cosmopolitanism' to de­ note the new code of intellectual oppositionality he, Ross and others are trying to devise.* But there is a limit to w hat the New York Intellectuals can teach us. In the end they were a radical vanguard who, after the W ar, found themselves living in the age of consensus; cultural Modern­ ists who for most of their lives inhabited post-modernity. ‘One shorthand way of describing this situation’, writes Irving Howe, ‘a cause of both their fevered brilliance and fevered instability, is to say th at they came late. ’9 Hence while we m ight stand to learn m uch about the past from the Intellectuals, we m ust look elsewhere for guidance into the future.

Notes 1 Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 1989) 223. 2 Ross, No Respect 221, 222. The New Left’s perception of the Old is well summed up in the following comment by young novelist Jeremy Lamer: ‘They appear to be tedious, tired of themselves, full of self-hate, and chained to an idealism so abstract that it precludes love of life.’ John Patrick Diggins, The Rise and Fall of the American Left (New York: Norton, 1992) 233. 3 For information about Podhoretz’s recent political activities see Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 354-8. For an indicative statement of PR’s current cultural

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anxiety, see William Phillips' contribution to the symposium on 'The Changing Culture of the University', Partisan Review 58 (1991): 192-203. 4 See for example Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals: American Cul­ ture in the Age of Academe (New York: Basic, 1987); or James Atlas, ‘The Changing World of the New York Intellectuals’, New York Times Magazine 25 August 1985: 22+. 5 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Corporatism of the Universal: The Role of In­ tellectuals in the Modem World', Telos 81 (1989): 108. 6 Bruce Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Cul­ ture (London: Verso, 1993); Ross, No Respect 230. 7 Bourdieu, ‘Corporatism’ 108. 8 Robbins, Secular Vocations 180-97. 9 Irving Howe, A Margin of Hope•An Intellectual Autobiography (London: Seeker, 1983) 151.

Select bibliography Primary sources 1. Manuscript collections Allen Tate Papers, Firestone Library. Princeton. American Committee fewCultural Freedom Papers, Tamlment library, New York University. Delmore Schwartz Papers, Belnecke Library, Yale. Dwight Macdonald Papers, Sterling Memorial library, Yale. F. W. Dupee Papers, Butler Library, Columbia. Lionel Trilling Papers, Butler Library, Columbia. Morton Dauwen Zabel Papers, Newberry library, Chicago. Robert Lowell Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard. R. P. Blackmur Papers, Firestone library, Princeton. Richard Chase Papers, Butler library, Columbia. Southern Review Papers. Belnecke Library, Yale. 2. Personal Interviews Aaron, Daniel, 6 September 1988, Harvard. Barrett, William, 20 October 1988, Tanytown. Bell, Daniel, 18 October 1988, Harvard. Phillips, William, 14 October 1988, Boston.

Secondary sources Books, articles and dissertations are cited here; for articles publish­ ed In Partisan Review, Politics and Encounter refer to the chapter notes. Abel, Lionel. The Intellectual Follies: A Memoir of the Literary Venture in New York and Paris. New York: Norton, 1984. Adorno, Theodor. ‘On the Fetish Character of Music and the Regression of

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Hearing’. The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. Ed. Andrew Arato and Bike Gebhardt. New York: Urlzen Books, 1977. ----- ’On Popular Music’. Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9 (1941): 17-48. Adorno, Theodor, and Horkheimer, Max. The Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Herder, 1972. Aldridge, John. In Search ofHeresy: American Literature in an Age of Conformity. Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1967. Alvarez, A. Under Pressure: The Writer in Society: Eastern Europe and the USA. Baltimore: Penguin, 1965. Anderson, Elliott and Kinzle, Mary. The Little Magazine in America: A Modem Documentary History. New York: Jonkers, 1978. ‘Angel With a Red Beard’. Time 30 June 1947: 64. Angoff, Charles. ‘Concerning the Little Magazines’. Carleton Miscellany 7.2 (1966): 12-16. ‘Announcement to Contributors’. Kenyon Review 6 (1944): 275. Arendt, Hannah. ‘He’s All Dwight’. New York Review of Books 1 August 1968: 31-3. Arrowsmith, William. *Partisan Review and American Writing’. Hudson Review 1 (1949): 526-36. Adas, James. ‘The Changing World of the New York Intellectuals’. New York Times Magazine 25 August 1985: 22+. ----- Delmore Schwartz: The Ufe ofan American Poet New York: Farrar, 1977. Barrett, William. ‘Notes on Being American’. Horizon 93-4 (1947): 30-45. ----- The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals. New York: Doubleday, 1982. Bell, Daniel. The End ofIdeology: On the Exhaustion ofPolitical Ideas in the Fifties. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988. ----- Letter. New York Times Book Review 3 May 1987: 54. Beichman, Arnold. Letter. Society 21.6 (1984): 5. Bender, Thomas. New York Intellect A History of Intellectual Ufe in New York, from 1750 to the Beginning of Our Own Time. New York: Knopf, 1987. Bendey, Eric. ‘Litde Magazines’. Kenyon Review 9 (1947): 279-86. Blake, Casey. Rev. of How New York Stole the Idea of Modem Art Abstract Expressionism, Freedomand the Cold War, by Serge Gilbaut, and The Romance of Commerce and Culture: Capitalism, Modernism and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform, by James Sloan Allen. Telos 62 (1984-85): 211-17. Blaustein, Jacob. Letter. Commentary December 1949: 614. Bloom, Alexander. Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘The Corporatism of the Universal: The Role of Intellectuals in the Modem World’. Telos 81 (1989): 99-109.


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Braden, Thomas W. Tm Glad the CIA Is “Immoral”’. Saturday Evening Post 20 May 1967: 10+. Brogan. Hugh. Longman History of the United States. New York: Longman, 1985. Brym, Robert J. Intellectuals and Politics. London: Allen, 1980. Carruth. Hayden. ‘Foundations and Magazines: A Symposium'. Carleton Miscellany 4.2 (1963): 60-71. Caute. David. The Fellow-Travellers. London: Weidenfeld. 1973. Chlaromonte, Nicola. The Worm of Consciousness and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt. 1976. Cohen, Elliot E. Editorial. Commentary November 1949: 501. Coleman, Peter. The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe. New York: Free Press, 1989. Cooney, Terry A. The Rise of the New York Intellectuals: Partisan Review and Its Circle. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986. Coser, Lewis A. Refugee Scholars In America: Their Impact and Their Experiences. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1984. Cowley, Malcolm. ’The Little Magazines Grow Up’. New York Times Book Review 14 September 1947: 5+. ----- ’Ten little Magazines'. New Republic 31 March 1947: 30-3. Crews, Frederick. ‘The Partisan’. New York Review of Books 23 November 1978: 3+. Dickstein, Morris. Gates of Eden: American Culture In the 1960s. New York: Basic, 1977. Diener, Arthur A. ‘Psychoanalysis and literature’. New International 13 (1947): 188-9. Diggins, John Patrick. The Rise and Fall ofthe American Left New York: Norton, 1992. Dvosin, Andrew James. ’literature in a Political World: The Career and Writ­ ings of Philip Rahv’. Diss. NYU, 1977. Bagleton, Terry, literary Theory: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983. ----- Marxism and Literary Criticism. London: Methuen, 1976. 'Editorial Notes’. Critical Inquiry 3 (1977): 817-20. Epstein, Jason. ‘The CIA and the Intellectuals’. London Magazine July 1967: 5-19. Farrell, James T. ‘A Comment on Literature and Morality’. New International 12 (1946): 141-5. Faulkner, Peter. Modernism. London: Methuen, 1977. Fiedler, Leslie. ‘Partisan Review: Phoenix or Dodo?’ Perspectives 15 (1956): 82-97. ----- ‘The Un-Angry Young Men: America’s Postwar Generation’. Encounter 10.1 (1958): 3-12. Fox, Richard Wightman and Jackson Lears, T. J., eds. The Culture of

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Consumption: Critical Essays in American History 1880-1980. New York: Pantheon, 1983. ‘From the Notebooks of Lionel Trilling’. Partisan Review: The 50th Anniversary Edition. Ed. William Phillips. New York: Stein, 1985.14-33. Gelderman, Carol. Mary McCarthy: A Life. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1988. Gilbert, James. Writers and Partisans: A History of literary Radicalism in Amer­ ica. New York: Wiley, 1968. Gold, Mike. ‘Papa Anvil and Mother Partisan’. New Masses 18 February 1936: 22-3. Goodman, Paul. ‘liberal Anti-Communism Revisited: A Symposium’. Com­ mentary September 1967: 41-3. Graff, Gerald. Professing Literature: An Institutional History. London: Chicago University Press, 1987. Gruber, Carol S. Mars and Minerva: World War I and the Use of Higher Learning in America. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975. Hartley, Anthony. Rev. of Encounter. Spectator 9 October 1953:407-8. ----- Rev. of Encounter. Spectator 22 January 1954:107-8. ----- Rev. of Encounter. Spectator 2 July 1954: 36. Hoffinan, Frederick J., Allen, Charles, and Ulrich, Carolyn F. The Little Maga­ zine: A History and a Bibliography. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946. Hollinger, David A. In the American Province. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Hook, Sidney. Letter. Commentary December 1982: 77-8. ----- ‘liberal Anti-Communism Revisited: A Symposium’. Commentary Sep­ tember 1967: 44-8. ----- Out of Step: An Unquiet Ufe in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper, 1987. ----- ‘The Radical Comedians: Inside Partisan Review’’. American Scholar 54 (1984-5): 45-61. Hough, Graham. Letter. Listener 19 October 1967: 504. Howard, Milton. ‘Partisan Review: Esthetics of the Cage’. Mainstream 1 (1947): 46-57. Howe, Irving. Decline of the New. London: Gollancz, 1971. ----- How Partisan Review Goes to War’. New International 13 (1947): 10911.

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Rosenfeld, Isaac. ‘Adam and Eve on Delancey Street’. Commentary October 1949: 385-7. ----- ‘On the Role of the Writer and the Little Magazine’. Chicago Review 11.4 (1957): 3-16. Ross, Andrew. No Respect Intellectuals and Popular Culture. London: Routledge, 1989. Sale, Roger. ’Lionel Trilling'. Hudson Review 26 (1973): 241-7. Scatamacchia, Christina. "The Flickering Candle: Dwight Macdonald, Politics and American Radicalism, 1944-1949’. Diss. Bridgeport, 1973. Schorer, Mark. ‘Art and Dogma’. Rev. of The Partisan Reader, ed. William Phillips and Philip Rahv. New Republie 11 November 1946: 634-6. Shapiro, Karl. Foreword. Letters of Debnore Schwartz. Ed. Robert Phillips. Princeton: Ontario Review Press, 1984. xl-xiil. Simpson, Eileen. Poets in Their Youth: A Memoir. London: Faber, 1982. Spender, Stephen. ‘A Conversation with Stephen Spender’. The Review 23 (1970): 19-32. ----- Journals 1939-1983. London: Faber, 1985. ----- ’The Situation of the American Writer’. Horizon 111 (1949): 162-79. ----- The Thirties and After. London: Macmillan, 1978. Stallman, Robert Woolster. ‘Against the Formula’. Rev. of The Uttle Magazine: A History and a Bibliography, by Frederick J. Hollinan, Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. Poetry 70 (1947): 274-8. Steinfels, Peter. The Neoconservatives. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979. Sumner, Gregory Dean. ‘Window on the First New Left: Dwight Macdonald’s Politics Magazine, 1944-1949’. Diss., Indiana, 1992. Taylor, A. J. P. ‘A New Voice for Culture’. Listener 8 October 1953: 596+. Temperley, Howard, and Bradbury, Malcolm. ‘War and Cold War’. Introduc­ tion to American Studies. Ed. Malcolm Bradbury and Howard Temperley. London: Longman, 1981. 243-66. Teres, Harvey. ‘Remaking Marxist Criticism: Partisan Review’s Eliotlc Leftism, 1934-1936’. American Literature 64 (1992): 127-53. Trenerry, Walter. ‘Foundations and Magazines: A Symposium’. Carleton Miscellany 4.2 (1963): 58-60. Trilling, Diana. ‘An Interview with Dwight Macdonald’. Partisan Review: The 50th Anniversary Edition. Ed. William Phillips. New York: Stein, 1985. 312-32. ----- ‘Liberal Anti-Communism Revisited’. We Must March, My Darlings. New York: Harcourt. 1977. 41-66. Trilling, Lionel. The Liberal Imagination. London: Seeker, 1951. ----- The Middle of the Journey. New York: Avon, 1947. United States. Bureau of the Census. The Statistical History of the United States From Colonial Times to the Present New York: Basic, 1976. Wald, Alan. The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist

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Index Aaron, Daniel. 63.101 Abel. Lionel. 32. 141.164 Abstract Expressionism, 127 ACCF, see American Committee for Cul­ tural Freedom Action Française, 89 Adams, ). Donald, 67 Adorno, Theodor, 64, 66. 78.151 Agrarians, see New Critics AIF, see Americans for Intellectual Freedom Alvares, Al. 12 American Committee for Cultural Freedom (ACCF). 117-19.193. 197-8. 205-10. 217-18, 224-7, 229. 235 Americans for Intellectual Freedom (AIF), 196-7. 208 American Jewish Committee. 217 American Workers Party. 32 Anchor Books, 5,19 17» Anchor Review, 19-20 Anderson. Maxwell, 83 antl-Communlsm, 6.12. 22-3, 52,113, 137-8, 146, 166-7.177.184, 194-5, 197. 201-6. 208. 210. 216. 220. 223. 236; see also antt-Stallnlsm anti-Semitism, 1 .4 ,1 1 ,4 6 , 70, 89-92 anÜ-Stallnlsm. 2, 6, 21. 32-3,43-5,113, 115.138. 146.166-9, 173.193. 200. 243: see also antl-Communlsm Anvil, 42-3 Aragon, Louis, 83 Arendt, Hannah, 144,156; ‘What Is Exis­ tenz Philosophy?’, 71 Aron, Raymond, 225 Arrowsmlth, William, 109-10,112 Arvin, Newton, 101; ‘Report from the Academy’, 62 Auden, W. H.. 65, 90.93.219 Avon, 19 Barrett. William. 47-8. 62. 66. 69. 74. 77. 93. 96-7, 100-3, 111, 114,122, 145,150,172,196; ’Art, Aristocracy and Reason’, 102; ‘Dialogue on Anxi­ ety’, 71; ‘Further Comment’, 94; The ‘‘liberal’’ Fifth Column’, 166; ‘Man Without Super-Ego’, 72; ‘Pilgrim to Phlllstia*, 67; ‘A Prise for Ezra Pound’, 92; ‘The Resistance’, 63-4, 68; ‘What

b the liberal Mind?’. 101; ’Writers and Madness’, 73-4 Baselon, David T„ 86 Beato, 17. 22.108,123-8 Beckmann. Max. 76 Bell. Daniel, 4. 33.138,140,149,167. 206 Bellow. SauL 12. 34.121.142,179-80; Dangling Man, 75

Bender, Thomas, 17 Bennett, Joseph. 109 Bentley. Eric, 113 Berryman. John, 35, 91,114,153 Bettelhelm. Bruno. ‘Behavior in Extreme Situations', 149 Birnbaum, Norman, 233-5 Black Mountain School 108.127-8 Blackmur, R. P„ 91,113-15 BolUngen Foundation, 16 Bolllngen Prise for Poetry. 82. 90-4 Bondy, François, 217, 230 Boston Museum of Contemporary Arts, 198 Boston University, 244 Bourdieu, Pierre, 245-6 Braden, Thomas, 198, 200 Brandéis University, 13,122 Brecht, Bertold, 78, 88 British Society for Cultural Freedom. 117, 119, 218-19 Broadwater, Bowden, 171 Brod, Max. 75 Brooks. Van Wyck. 67. 205 Brown, Irving, 197, 207 Burgum, Edwin Berry, 86 Burnham, James, 32, 52,166,197, 2067; The Managerial Revolution, 52 Caffl. Andrea. 142,152.155.174; ‘Vio­ lence and Sociability’, 142 The Cambridge Journal 219 Camus. Albert, 110 ,1 5 3 ,1 5 7 ,1 6 4 .1 7 1 2. 174, 177 Carver, Catherine, 53,122 CCF, see Congress for Cultural Freedom CCNY, see City College of New York Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 6 ,1 3 , 23.116-18, 137-8, 193-4,197-207, 210-11. 221. 226. 235-6. 243

Index Chambers. Whittaker. 22, 220 Chase. Richard. 98-103; ‘Dissent on Billy Budd’, 101; ‘Liberalism and Literature’, 102; ‘The Progressive Hawthorne’, 101; 'Report from the Academy’, 62 Chlaromonte, Miriam, 174 Chiaromonte, Nicola, 138,141-2,152-5, 157, 164, 171-2,174-9,184, 196, 200; ‘On the Kind of Socialism Called Scientific’, 164 Chicago Tribune, 210 CIA, see Central Intelligence Agency CUiga, Anton, 178 City College of New York (CCNY). 33. 43. 47. 195. 223 Clark, Eleanor, 199 Clift, Montgomery, 174 Cohen, Elliot, 218 Coleman, Peter. 200-1, 223 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. 99 Columbia University, 13, 37,41, 62,98, 122, 124, 126, 205 Comlnfonn, 18,195-6 Commentary, 206, 217-18, 223; ‘Uberal Anti-Communism Revisited’, 202-3 Committee for Non-Violent Revolution, 146 Communism. 7,18. 22, 32,43, 61-2, 65, 71,117,166-8,175,193,195,197, 199-200, 203-5, 208, 223; see also Communist Party, Marxism, Stalinism Communist Party, 2-3, 9, 32,42-3, 62. 205; see also Communism Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), 11619.193-4,197-8, 200, 204, 206-10, 216-22, 224-7, 229-30, 232-5 Connolly, Cyril. 34. 51. I l l , 141, 218, 222 Conroy, Jack, 42-3 Constructivism. 78,109 Corso, Gregory, 126 Coser, Lewis, 13.139-41. 228 Cowley, Malcolm, 113 Creeley, Robert, 127 Crews, Frederick, 75 Criterion Books, 121 Critical Theorists, see Frankfurt School Cubism, 76. 78 Cultural Cold War. 6.19. 23-4,116-19, 137, 163,193-4, 197,199-200, 2023. 211, 235-6, 243 Daily Telegraph, 221 Daily Worker, 92

Davis, Robert Gorham, 94,101 Der Monat, 195, 207, 217 Dial Press. 39. 86.121 Discovery, 19 Dissent, 206, 227-8, 232-4, 236 Dostoevsky, Fedor, 72-6 Doubleday. 5

25 7

Dowling. Allan D„ 51-3 Dreiser, Theodore, 83 Dulles, Allen, 200 Dupee, F. W„ 43-1,122,199 BAG, see Europe-America Groups Eagleton, Terry, 245 Eisenstein, Sergei, 78 Eliot. T. S.. 4. 69-70, 75-6, 89-91, 94, 111, 155,172.219-20; The Waste Land, 4 Elliott, George P„ 139 Emergency Civil liberties Union, 209 Encounter, 116-17,119, 211, 216, 236; controversy concerning, 230-5; Dwight Macdonald moves to, 227-30; origins and early reception of. 217-26 Europe-America Groups (BAG), 163,17180.193-4,196, 204 Existentialism, 70-1, 73. 77, 87.110,153 Expressionism, 76-8 Farfield Foundation, 198 Farrell James T„ 32, 85-6,164,202,210 Faulkner. William, 219-20 Federal Bureau of Investigation, 117 Fiedler, Leslie, 34; "The State of American Writing’, 69, 75 Fleischmann, Julius, 198, 221 Ford Foundation, 19,114,201 Forster, E. M„ 85 Fortune, 43. 49.143-4 Foucault, Michel, 245-6 Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, see Frankfurt School Frankfurt School. 13-14, 61. 64-7, 70. 77-8, 151, 155,245 Freedom Press, 141 Freud, Sigmund, 71-2.151 FRF, see Friends of Russian Freedom Friends of Russian Freedom (FRF), 196 Fyvel T. R.. 218-19 Gandhi, Mahatma. 84,169 Genet. Jean, 75 Ginsberg, Allen, 123-6 Glaser, Nathan, 206 Godwin, William, 152 Gold, Mike. 42 Goodman, Paul, 40. 72,139-40,151, 156,164 Greenberg, Clement, 1, 51-2, 93, 218; ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’, 67; ‘The State of American Writing’, 96-7 Gurlan, Waldemar, 145 Gutman, Peter, 141 Hardwick. Elisabeth. 171 Hartlgan, Grace, 17 Hartley. Anthony, 221-2



Harvard University, 49.115.121. 205 Heidegger, Martin, 71 Hemingway, Ernest, 219 Herrlman, George. Krmy Kat 63 Herren, Aleksandr, 152 Hillyer, Robert, 90-1 Hook, Sidney. 1. 32.45. 52.116.164. 166. 172-7. 196-7. 200. 203. 205-7, 217. 225. 229 Horizon, 34. 51. 111. 141.184. 218. 222. 236 Horkheimer, Max, 151 Hough, Graham, 222 Houghton Mifflin, 5 Howard, Milton. 109 Howe, Irving, 39, 63,91-3,119,140, 168.178, 202, 206, 246; ‘James T. Far­ rell: The Critic Calcified’, 85-6; ‘Maga­ zine Chronicle', 100; The Sentimental Fellow-Traveller’. 86; ‘The Thirteenth Disciple'. 154-5.165-6 Hudson Review, 109-11,123 Hyman. Stanley Edgar, 63 International Organisations Division (IOD). 198 IOD, see International Organisations Divi­ sion Jacobs, Norman, 224 Jacoby. Russell, The Last Intellectuals, 11 James, Henry, 39, 75, 85 Jameson. Frederick, 245 Jarrell. Randall John Reed Club, 31,42,109 Jones, LeRoi, 17,127 Josselson, Michael, 197, 202, 207, 217, 219-20, 224, 226-30, 234 Joyce, James. 4; Ulysses, 4 Kafka, Franz, 75-6, 78 Kaplan, Harold, 179-80 Kazin. Alfred, 40,42,172,179; On Native Grounds, 40 Kenyon College, 114 Kenyon Review, 18, 34, 89-90,113-14 Kenyon School of Letters, 34 Kerouac, Jack, 124-5 Koestler, Arthur, 35, 65, 74, 76, 84, 86,; Darkness at Noon, 84 Krim, Seymour, 110,112,124-5,127 Krlstol, Irving, 206, 217, 219-20, 22231. 234-5; '"Civil liberties". 1952’, 223 Krupnlck, Mark, 120 Kulchur, 127

Lasch. Christonher. 10 Lasky, Melvin J„ 195-7, 200, 207, 217, 230, 234

Laughlin, James, 111 League of American Writers, 42 Lee. Eric, 110 Les Temps Modernes, 34,141 Lewis, Wyndham, 111 Liberal Press, 140 Uchthelm, George. 218-19 The Listener, 221 Little, Brown, 5 London School of Economics, 233 Lowell, Robert, 35, 90, 93.121 Lowenthal Leo, 13 Luce, Henry. 110 Lukács, Gyorgy, 77-8, 87-8 McCarthy, Joseph, 22,206, 209 McCarthy, Kevin. 174 McCarthy, Mary. 1.43-5,111-12,138, 153- 4, 164-6, 171-2, 174-8,196, 200, 204-5,245; The Oasis, 163,17884 McCarthytsm, 223 Macdonald, Dwight, 1, 39,43-7,49-50, 91-2,115,138-57,163-80,185, 195-6, 200, 204-6, 216, 227-35, 244-5; ‘America! America!’, 230-5; 'Atrocities of the Mind’, 149; ‘Henry Wallace’, 168; ‘No Miracle in Milan’, 230; The Responsibility of Peoples’, 149; The Root Is Man’, 149-50,154, 164-5,173; ‘USA v. USSR’, 168-9 Macdonald, Nancy, 49,139-42,144-5, 153,177 MacLeish, Archibald, 205 Malraux, André, 141 The Manchester Guardian, 209 Mannheim, Karl 2 Marcuse, Herbert, 13 Markfleld, Wallace. ‘Children of the Fatten­ ing Fifties’. 13 Marshall, John, 115 Marshall, Margaret, 91 Marx, Karl, 87,149; see also Marxism Marxism, 9,13. 32. 38.41,43. 61. 64. 70. 72. 83. 86. 99,109, 138, 146, 154- 5,166,169,184, 200, 245; and cultural theory, 77-8; and literary criticism, 87-8; New York Intellectuals’ identification with, 2-3; rejection of by Dwight Macdonald, 149-52,164-5 Masani, Mlnoo, 217, 225 Matthlessen, F. 0„ 67, 86 Melville, Herman, 101 Menoruh Journal, 32 Merrill, James, 127 Meyerhold. Vsevolod, 78 Mid Century, 5 Mill, John Stuart, 99 Miller, Henry, 75 Mills, C. Wright, 139-40,143-4,156

Index Mills, Ruth Harper, 143-4 Modernism, 6 -7 ,1 3 ,1 5 , 21, 23-4, 32. 38, 40-1, 61. 72. 82. 93. 95, 97.109, 113, 119,146,194, 243, 246: canonisation of by New York Intellec­ tuals, 74-8; claiming of by New York Intellectuals, 66-70; conservative tend­ encies of, 89-91; Institutionalisation o£ 4-5; New York Intellectuals' Identifica­ tion with, 3 Morgan, Frederick, 109, 111 Morris, George L K„ 43-5,48-50,144 Muggerldge, Malcolm, 218-21, 225 Mühlen, Norbert, 208 Museum of Modem Art, 17 Nabokov. Nicholas. 172-3,198,209, 217, 225, 229-34 Nation. 43. 91.166 National Committee fiar the Defence of Political Prisoners, 32 NCL, see non-Communist Left Nehru, Jawaharlal, 84 Neon, 127 New American library, 19 New Critics. 18, 89-92.114-16 New Directions, 5 New International, 85,140,168 New Leader, 195,206 New Left, 155-6,244 New Masses, 43 New Republic. 40,43,140 New Statesman and Nation, 219 New Voices, 19 New World Writing, 19 New York City Ballet, 17 New York School, 17,108,127-8 New York Times, 67

New York University, 121 New Yorker. 62 .185 non-Communist Left (NCL), 200-2,2067. 210-11, 217-18, 223, 226, 236 Northwestern University, 230 Norton, Mary Herder, 49-51,145 Notre Dame University, 145 Office of Strategic Services (OSS), 13.199 O’Hara, Frank, 127 Orlovsky. Peter, 126 Orwell. George. 35.168; 1984, 84 OSS, see Office of Strategic Services Passln, Herbert, 225, 230 Partisan Review, 137-41,143-5,147-8, 150-1, 154-5,166-9, 172-7,184, 195,199, 204, 206, 217-18, 221, 244; and Bolllngen Prise, 89-94; as community centre, 31-8; conflict around, 38-47; construction of literary canon by, 74-8; contradictions in criti­


cism of, 82-8; and controversy with Chase and Trilling, 97-103; and Institu­ tionalisation of New York Intellectuals, 94-7; material history of, 48-53,11323; on Modernism, 66-70; opposition to, 108-13; ‘Our Country and Our Cul­ ture', 21; pessimism of, 61-5; rejection of by young writers, 123-8; theory about condition of modem writer of, 70-4 Patton, George S„ 149 Penguin New Writing, 219 Perspectives USA, 19, 201,235 Phillips. William, 13. 21. 32. 35 -6 ,4 3 53. 66, 68, 75. 95. 100,109, 111, 114-15,117-22,126,138-40,143, 146,150-1, 165, 172, 202-6, 21718; ‘Dostoevsky's Underground Man’, 72-3 Pocket Bodes, 19 Podhoretz, Norman, 21, 62,119,123-6, 244; The Know-Nothing Bohemians’. 125 Poe, Edgar Allen, 64 Poetry, 16, 91 Poirier, Richard, 122 Politics, 91, 163-4, 168,172,177-8, 221, 228, 236, 245; as community cen­ tre, 138-44; contents of, 148-57; material history of. 144-8,170-1,185 Popular Front, 42, 62,196 Pound, Ezra, 16, 75, 82, 97,125; Culture, 91; Pisan Cantos, 90-4 Psychoanalysis, 71-4, 77, 87,98,151 PR, see Partisan Review Preuves, 216

Princeton University, 114 Proudhon, Pierre Joseph, 152 Quest, 216

Rahv, Philip. 1. 3. 7. 32. 35-6, 39-40, 43-53, 63-4, 68. 74. 85-6, 91. 93. 95, 99-101, 109, 111, 113-14, 11623,126,138-9,143, 145-6, 150-1, 169,179-80, 203-6, 245; ‘Concerning Tolstoy’, 86-8; ‘Disillusionment and Partial Answers', 165,172-3; ‘Our Country and Our Culture’, 21; Testa­ ment of a Homeless Radical', 65-6; The Urduture of Utopia', 84 Rand School, 172-3 Randolph, A. Philip, 156 Random House, 5 Ransom, John Crowe, 18, 34,114,116 Reader’s Digest, 51 Readers’ Subscription, 5 The Rebel Poet, 43 Reich, Wilhelm, 151 Review o f Politics, 145



Revolution Proktartenne, 174

Robbins, Bruce. 25, 245-6 Rockefeller Foundation, 113-15 Rosenberg, Ethel, 209 Rosenberg, Harold. 39.139.166. 206, 227-8 Rosenberg. Julius, 209 Rosenfeld. Isaac. 11-13. 20. 75. 83.121. 151. 172; The Colony’, 84 Ross. Andrew. 245-6 Rothschild. Lord. 221 Rougemont, Dennis de, 197-8 Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 149 Rousset, David, 197 Russell. Bertrand, 209-10 Rutgers University, 108.122-3 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 34. 71.110, 246; ‘The Case for Responsible literature', 65 The Saturday Review o f Literature. 38,90 Schapiro. Meyer. 32.164,172, 205-6 Schleifer. Marie, 127 Schlesinger. Arthur Jr, 205. 227 Schoenberg. Arnold, 76 Schorer. Mark, 113 Schwartz. Delmore, 1, 32. 35.42,44, 47, 49, 51. 53. 75-7, 91. 95. 111. 11416.121-2,172; In Dreams Begin Re­ sponsibilities, 172; T. S. Eliot as the International Hero’, 69-70, 76, 89 Scrutiny, 219 Seeker and Warburg, 220 Serge, Victor, 86,141 Sewanee Review, 18, 34, 89-90, 98,100, 114 Shapiro, Karl, 33.94; Essay on Rime, 67 Shlls, Edward, 10.118, 230 Sllone. Ignazio, 35, 74 Silver, Margaret de, 144 Simon, Joan, 49 Simpson, Eileen, 153 Smith College, 62, 94,101 The Spectator, 221-2 Socialist Workers Party, 45,146 Sorrenttno. Gilbert, 127-8 Southern Review, 18,48 Spender, Stephen, 19, 34.112, 206-7, 218-28. 230-5; 'Modem Writers In a World of Necessity’, 65 Stalin, Joseph, 2, 204; see also Stalinism Stalinism, 2-3, 6. 9. 22. 32. 45, 50. 62-3, 65-6, 74. 84,101.109.117,140, 166-9, 173,177.195-6. 223: see also Communism State Department, 6 ,2 3 ,2 0 0 Steinbeck, John, Cannery Row, 83 Stevens, Wallace, 16 Sunday Times, 222

Sweeney, James Johnson, 51-2 Swift, Jonathan, 73

Symbolism, 75-6 Tate. Allen. 34. 90-4,114,121,155. 219 Taylor. A. J. P„ 221-2 Time, 110 Times literary Supplement, 221-2 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 152 Tolstoy. Leo. 74-5, 86-8,152 T V pcrn

P n r ln

14 4

Trilling. Diana, The Other Night at Colum­ bia'. 126 Trilling. Lionel, 1. 5, 32. 37.41. 52. 63. 82. 97-103, 114,124-6, 172-3, 1834; The Liberal Imagination, 98-9; The Middle o f the Journey, 85-6; ‘A Note on Art and Neurosis'. 98; ‘Of This Time, Of That Place', 84; 'The Other Margaret’, 84-6; ‘A Rejoinder to Mr Barrett', 102; ‘The State of American Writing’, 97-8 Trotsky, Leon, 2; The Revolution Betrayed, 45; see also Trotskyism Ttotskylsm, 3. 32.45.109,138,140, 154, 166, 182, 195,199 Truman. Harry S„ 204 Tucci, Nlccolo, 142,172 Tucholsky, Kurt, 152 The Twentieth Century, 218-19, 232-3 Universities and Left Review, 233-4 University of Chicago, 34 University of Maryland, 139 University of the South, 114

Vassar College, 44 Viking, Harcourt, Brace, 5 Wald, Alan, The New York Intellectuals, 182-4 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel 196-7 Wallace, Henry, 166,168 War Resisters’ League, 146 Warburg. Frederick, 218-20 Warren, Robert Penn, 4 8 ,9 0 ,9 2 .9 4 Warshow, Robert, 63 Weber, Max, 152 Well, Simone, ‘The Blad’, 149 Weschler, James, 205 Whitfield, Stephen, 156 Williams, Raymond, 88-9 Williams, William Carlos, 125 Wilson. Edmund. 32 Wolpert, J. F., ‘Notes on the American In­ telligentsia’, 62, 96 World Federation of Democratic Youth, 198 World Peace Council 198 Yale University, 44 Yeats. W. B., 75 Yugen, 127