Information

Ida Rauh


Ida Rauh was born into a prosperous family in New York City. Rauh, a socialist and supporter of women's suffrage, became a lawyer. Her friend, Crystal Eastman, introduced her to Max Eastman in 1907. According to William L. O'Neill: "Ida Rauh, a beautiful and intelligent Jewish woman with a private income, whom Max Eastman had known since first coming to New York. She was rebelling against her bourgeois family and explained the class struggle to him so clearly that he became a socialist." Eastman, a talented journalist, was also persuaded to join the Men's League for Women's Suffrage.

Rauh became involved in the Hull House project in Chicago. She met other women interested in trade unionism. This included Jane Addams, Mary McDowell, Alice Hamilton, Florence Kelley and Sophonisba Breckinridge. Together the group established the Women's Trade Union League. The main objective of the organization was to educate women about the advantages of trade union membership. It also support women's demands for better working conditions and helped to raise awareness about the exploitation of women workers.

The Women's Trade Union League received support from the American Federation of Labour and attracted women concerned with women's suffrage as well as industrial workers wanting to improve their pay and conditions. Early members included Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, Margaret Robins, Leonora O'Reilly, Mary McDowell, Margaret Haley, Helen Marot, Mary Ritter Beard, Rose Schneiderman, Alice Hamilton, Agnes Nestor, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Kelley and Sophonisba Breckinridge.

Rauh married Max Eastman on 4th May, 1911 in Patterson, New Jersey. He later recalled that he awoke the next morning seized with terror: "I had lost, in marrying Ida, my irrational joy in life." The author of The Last Romantic (1978), has argued: "Unlike his affectionate mother and sister, Ida was never one to shower people, even her husband, with compliments and attentions. Yet these were necessary to Max's well-being. She was given to periods of indolence and so could not pour vitality into Max's languid nerves as he thought essential."

Ida Rauh gave birth to a son, Daniel, on 6th September, 1912. The couple remained active in several radical causes and both appeared in a film, Votes for Women, starring Jane Addams and Anna Howard Shaw. They also both became members of the Socialist Party of America.

Max Eastman developed a reputation as an outstanding journalist and in 1912 was invited to become editor of the left-wing magazine, The Masses. Organized like a co-operative, artists and writers who contributed to the journal shared in its management. Other radical writers and artists who joined the team included Floyd Dell, John Reed, William Walling, Crystal Eastman, Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Arturo Giovannitti, Michael Gold, Amy Lowell, Louise Bryant, John Sloan, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, K. R. Chamberlain, Stuart Davis, Lydia Gibson, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.

In his first editorial, Eastman argued: "This magazine is owned and published cooperatively by its editors. It has no no dividends to pay, and nobody is trying to make money out of it. A revolutionary and not a reform magazine: a magazine with a sense of humour and no respect for the respectable: frank, arrogant, impertinent, searching for true causes: a magazine directed against rigidity and dogma wherever it is found: printing what is too naked or true for a money-making press: a magazine whose final policy is to do as it pleases and conciliate nobody, not even its readers."

A group of left-wing activists including Ida Rauh, Floyd Dell, John Reed, George Jig Cook, Mary Heaton Vorse, Michael Gold, Susan Glaspell, Hutchins Hapgood, Harry Kemp, Max Eastman, Theodore Dreiser, William Zorach, Neith Boyce and Louise Bryant, who lived in Greenwich Village, often spent their summers in Provincetown is a small seaport in Massachusetts. In 1915 several members of the group established the Provincetown Theatre Group. A shack at the end of the fisherman's wharf was turned into a theatre. Later, other writers such as Eugene O'Neill and Edna St. Vincent Millay joined the group.

The play, Suppressed Desires, that George Jig Cook co-wrote with his wife Susan Glaspell, was one of the first plays performed by the group. He also wrote the anti-war play, The Athenian Women during the First World War. Another member of the group, Louise Bryant, wrote: "It was a strange year. Never were so many people in America who wrote or painted or acted ever thrown together in one place." During this period the group also produced Constancy (1915) by Neith Boyce and Enemies (1916) by Hutchins Hapgood.

Ida Rauh appeared in several of these productions. Linda Ben-Zvi has argued: "The person who received the most glowing reviews was Ida Rauh, who had developed into the finest actor the Provincetown Players produced. She appeared in thirteen productions in the first two seasons, and was referred to in print as the Duse of MacDougal Street or an American Bernhardt. In life she displayed a similar power and sensuality."

In 1916 Ida left Max Eastman. Soon afterwards she began an affair with George Jig Cook. This came to an end in March 1918. Hutchins Hapgood wrote. "Jig and Ida breaking, it is said. Jig is jealous of notices of Ida in the papers - so they say."

© John Simkin, May 2013

Ida Rauh, for instance, who would become a leading actor with the Provincetown Players, was also a lawyer who studied with Crystal Eastman at NYU; a birth-control advocate, arrested for distributing pamphlets in Union Square with Margaret Sanger; a socialist, who introduced her future husband, Max Eastman, to Marx and Engel's writings and influenced the direction he would take as editor of The Masses; an accomplished sculptor, who worked with Jo Davidson; as well as a painter and a poet. Other Heterodites were equally talented and diverse.

Ida Rauh, a beautiful and intelligent Jewish woman with a private income, whom Max Eastman had known since first coming to New York. She was rebelling against her bourgeois family and explained the class struggle to him so clearly that he became a socialist.... Unlike his affectionate mother and sister, Ida was never one to shower people, even her husband, with compliments and attentions. She was given to periods of indolence and so could not pour vitality into Max's languid nerves as he thought essential.

The person who received the most glowing reviews was Ida Rauh, who had developed into the finest actor the Provincetown Players produced. In life she displayed a similar power and sensuality. Mabel Dodge described her as "noble-looking, like a lioness.") To her husband, Max Eastman, she was beautiful and mysterious when he first met her - and clinging and dependent when he tried to leave her for a much younger woman in 1916. Dodge tells a different story, describing Ida's joy at the thought of finally being free to face life without Max. Part of this post-Max life included Jig. Just when their affair began is not clear; but by March 1918, it was common gossip among the Players. Jig is jealous of notices of Ida in the papers - so they say," Hutch wrote to Neith from New York, referring to The Athenian Women, in which his own last-minute takeover of the leading male role brought him negative reviews as opposed to her accolades.

© John Simkin, April 2013


Six women including Mary Dreier, Ida Rauh, Helen Marot, Rena Borky, Yetta Raff, and Mary Effers linked arm in arm in their march to City Hall during the shirtwaist strike to demand an end to abuse by police . Other shirtwaist strikers follow behind carry

Title: Six women including Mary Dreier, Ida Rauh, Helen Marot, Rena Borky, Yetta Raff, and Mary Effers linked arm in arm in their march to City Hall during the shirtwaist strike to demand an end to abuse by police . Other shirtwaist strikers follow behind carrying a union banner, Dec. 3, 1909, 1909.

Date: 12-03-1909

Photographer: Unknown

Photo ID: 5780PB32F27B

Collection: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs (1885-1985)

Repository: The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives in the ILR School at Cornell University is the Catherwood Library unit that collects, preserves, and makes accessible special collections documenting the history of the workplace and labor relations. www.ilr.cornell.edu/library/kheel

Notes: Individual identities and provided in records for 5780 P N45 #1189. No additional information available.

Copyright: There are no known U.S. copyright restrictions on this image. The digital file is owned by the Kheel Center which is making it freely available with the request that, when possible, the center be credited as its source.

Tags: Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives,Cornell University Library,Strikes, Women, Shirtwaist Makers, Banners, Int'l Ladies Garment Workers Union (1885-1985), Marches


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There are 5,000 census records available for the last name Rauh. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Rauh census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 2,000 immigration records available for the last name Rauh. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 5,000 military records available for the last name Rauh. For the veterans among your Rauh ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.


History of IDA

In 2013, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), completed the initial validation of the Impaired Driving Assessment (IDA) with a normative sample of 948 offenders sentenced to probation for a driving while impaired (DWI) offense. The IDA is a differential screening instrument that consists of 45 items across two components designed to estimate the risk for future impaired driving, provide preliminary guidelines for service needs, estimate the level of responsivity to supervision and services, and identify the degree to which traffic safety has been jeopardized among individuals convicted of a DWI offense.

The IDA has eight domains that assess a handful of major areas of impaired-driving recidivism: prior involvement in the justice system related to impaired driving, as well as in general prior involvement with alcohol and/or other drugs mental health and mood adjustment problems and resistance to or non-compliance with justice system interventions.

In addition to the IDA itself, APPA developed a training curriculum that provides users with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to administer and use the IDA with impaired-driving clients. APPA is currently offering group training sessions that may be conducted either onsite in respective jurisdictions or at its Training Institutes.

APPA and NHTSA are continuing their long-standing partnership through the development of an online training course and a computerized version of the instrument in order to promote more widespread use of the IDA by courts and community supervision agencies. To date, over 500 individuals across 17 states have been trained on using the IDA with impaired-driving clients. Due to the success of the IDA tool, the James and Laura Arnold Foundation has also provided APPA funding to adapt the IDA tool for use in pretrial settings.


Sex and Communism

Max Eastman: A Life, by Christoph Irmscher, Yale University Press, 434 pages, $40

Yale University Press

"It doesn't cheapen the aims of this biography or the ambitions of its subject," writes Christoph Irmscher, "to describe what follows as a story largely about sex and communism." What follows is the life of Max Eastman—poet, nudist, women's suffragist, war resister, socialist editor, and finally a self-described "libertarian conservative." William F. Buckley Jr. found his atheism unpalatable. But to a teenage Carly Simon, Eastman—by then in his 80s—was "the most beautiful man she had ever met." She was far from the only woman to feel that way.

Eastman's star burned bright for more than half of the 20th century, as he wrote his way to fame, traveled the world, translated Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, and ended up as one of the red faith's foremost apostates.

What kind of background produces a character like Max Eastman? One that begins with parents who were both Christian ministers. Max was born in Canandaigua, New York, in 1883. His mother, Annis, was ordained in 1889, but had for years already been assisting her husband, Rev. Samuel Eastman, with his sermons. Annis was emotionally close to her children, and they were close to one another. In the case of Max and his sister Crystal, two years older than him, they might have been too close. Crystal would be the adolescent Max's ideal woman her letters home to him from college are full of flirtatious teasing.

"Max's previous biographer has suggested that Max and Crystal had an incestuous relationship," Irmscher notes. He doesn't leap to that conclusion himself, saying the mix of religious passion, motherly doting, and sibling affection that swirled around Eastman defies easy interpretation. In any event, Eastman seems not to have had much specifically sexual confidence or experience until after he graduated from Williams College.

Appropriately enough, his first step toward becoming a public intellectual was made possible by one of his sister's boyfriends, who happened to teach at Columbia University. He got Max a job as a teaching assistant in the philosophy and psychology department, where Max fell into John Dewey's orbit. Crystal also drew her brother into progressive politics soon he was a leading speaker in the Men's League for Women's Suffrage.

The Columbia connection—Eastman was sometimes erroneously identified in the press as a professor—and his success as a speaker eased his path to becoming a noted writer too, and not just on suffrage. He published as a poet as well. And in 1913, he was offered the editorship of a small socialist magazine, The Masses, which under Max would become, as Irmscher puts it, "the only artsy socialist magazine the United States had ever had." Max's plan was "to make The Masses a popular Socialist magazine—a magazine of pictures and lively writing" rather than a vehicle for dogma.

The magazine made Max an outspoken champion of left-wing causes, including labor and, most fatefully, opposition to World War I. Max's editorial criticisms of the war earned the magazine harassment from Woodrow Wilson's government, which ultimately forced The Masses to close. In its place, Max and Crystal launched a new magazine, the Liberator. As the conflict drew to a close, it endorsed the war aims "outlined by the Russian people and expounded by President Wilson." Max and several former colleagues from The Masses were put on trial for having attempted to "unlawfully and willfully obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States." Two hung juries saved Max from a prison sentence.

Max's love life at this point was a contrast with the intense familial emotional engagement of his youth. He had married the feminist activist and poet Ida Rauh in 1911 and had a son with her. But he neglected both. At first he didn't even tell his parents or Crystal that he had wed. Ida cared for their child at the home they owned in the small town of Glenora, New York, while Max worked in New York City when he wasn't traveling and lecturing. He took an interest in other women the couple fought eventually he left her, claiming he'd never loved her. He became involved with a young silent-movie starlet, Florence Deshon, who was more sexually uninhibited than Max was at that point. This relationship too was doomed, and so was she. Max made the mistake of introducing her to Charlie Chaplin, who became his rival for her affections. Meanwhile, as Florence's career deteriorated, so did her state of mind. In 1922, a little more than five years after she had met Max, she died in what was probably a suicide.

Troubled by her death, Max moved to Italy, where he covered an international peace conference, and then to the Soviet Union, where he would see the fruits of the Bolshevik revolution for himself. His socialist credentials made him welcome in the USSR, but in Italy he acquired a credential of another kind: romance with Eliena Krylenko, a secretary to the Soviet foreign minister and the sister of Moscow's chief revolutionary prosecutor (though Eliena herself was not a Communist Party member). She would become Max's second wife.

Eastman's experiences in the USSR led to a disillusionment. Ordinary Russians he encountered did not necessarily describe themselves, when they were free to speak, as better off than they had been under the tsar. The death of Lenin portended a loss of idealism even before Stalin rose to supremacy. Max courted Leon Trotsky and was successful enough that Trotsky entrusted him with writing his biography and translating his monumental History of the Russian Revolution. But Max could not accept Trotsky's Marxist dogma.

There would come to be a powerful personal dimension to Max's disenchantment with Soviet Communism as well: Eliena's brother not only ran show trials but eventually was the victim of one. She also fell under suspicion, fleeing the country with Max. Exit saved her life: "Under Stalin's rule," writes Irmscher, "Eliena's entire family, including her sisters Olga Drauden, Vera Krylenko, and Sophia Meyer, along with their children, and her other brother, the mining engineer Vladimir Krylenko, vanished."

The American left did not welcome Max's break with Communism, and his radical bona fides were in doubt in other respects too. As a poet, Max tackled provocative subjects—including the biblical story of Sodom, which he reinterpreted to present the righteous man Lot as a misogynistic theocrat—but his style was considered old-fashioned. He found journalistic outlets closed to him, including the Liberator, which had come under Communist control. Yet Max was an expert on Soviet Russia and an established writer and lecturer, albeit one whose market was no longer what it had been. He felt ideologically displaced, and he felt like a failure.

But new opportunities would arise, both in the burgeoning anti-communist movement and through new media—in this case, radio. Max became the host of a show called Word Game on CBS, and his writing became a mainstay of Reader's Digest, whose anti-communist owner paid Max handsomely even while dumbing down his prose.

His ideological odyssey cost him friends, and the new ones he made among allies on the right did not always endure. He appeared on the masthead of National Review from its first issue in 1955 until 1964, when he came to find the magazine's religious framing of the struggle against communism to be too much, and editor William Buckley found Max's atheism too intransigent. Max had shed his faith by the time he left college. He did not fit in with the rather Catholic intellectual atmosphere of National Review. But he did not have an obvious ideological home anywhere else, either. He came to call himself a "libertarian conservative." He was not trying to establish a school of thought—just explain himself concisely.

There is more to Max Eastman's story. He matched wits with Freud—whom he met in Europe and cor-responded with for a time thereafter—and matched muscles with Ernest Hemingway, who took personal offense at a critical review that Eastman had written. (They brawled in the prominent book editor Maxwell Perkins' office.) He took more lovers, with Eliena tolerating Max's philandering out of unshakable devotion to him. He married a third time, to Yvette Szekely, after his second wife's death. And on August 3, 1969, Max died. His only son, Daniel, the child he had with Ida, followed six months later, unreconciled to his father.

All this is well told by Irmscher, a professor of English at Indiana University, who has produced in Max Eastman: A Life a thorough scholarly biography. It will not be to every reader's taste—the focus is on Eastman himself, and for all the sex and communism that enliven the story, Eastman's life was less interesting than his times. He failed to make the mark he aspired to, either as a poet or as a thinker. Yet Max Eastman remains a figure worth knowing, one of the last century's many pilgrims from the left to a kind of libertarianism.


The Love Affairs of an American Radical

In the winter of 1918, the radical writer and editor Max Eastman wrote to his soon to be ex-wife, Ida Rauh:

I always thought that the avidity with which you could drink up the blood of sacrifice and devotion and still be unsatisfied was truly terrible.… Your conception of what must be given to you seems colossal and hideous, and you rise in my eyes as an unslakable monster of selfishness.

Max wanted his freedom to do his own thing, experience the fullness of life, and follow his heart into the arms of the ravishing young Florence Deshon. If Ida truly loved him, she would set him free. Instead, she was trying to destroy his reputation, but also, almost as inexcusably, trying to lash him back down to domestic life with her.

Eastman includes in his harsh letter to Rauh a much softer letter he has written to their five-year-old son, Daniel. He asks Rauh to give it to Daniel, explaining to her what it says and suggesting to her how to frame it to the boy so that it lands gently. “I tell him that, although I love him and think of him always, I have left him completely to you, because I have hurt you beyond measure, and the only thing that I have that I can give you in compensation is my complete absence from your life and from your love for him.” The act itself is monstrously selfish. Eastman wouldn’t see his son for another 12 years, and would never play much of a role in Daniel’s sad life, which ended in alcoholism and possibly suicide. More stunning, in its way, is the lack of self-awareness. Eastman isn’t just bailing he’s persuading himself that he’s bailing for his son’s own good. He is pitching it to his ex-wife as a concession to her.

Writing in the second volume of his autobiography, almost 50 years later, Eastman even provides a doctor’s note for it:

Ida, after our parting, had gone into such a state that our physician, Dr. Herman Lorber, advised me not to try to see either her or the baby ‘for a few years at least.’ The rumors of her hostility, and its two-sided exacerbation in some letters we exchanged, had so alienated me that, although I felt waves of sadness about the baby, who was appealingly beautiful, I was not sorry to take the doctor’s advice.

It’s not rare that self-absorbed men and women with visions of their own greatness abandon, neglect, and otherwise damage their children, and Eastman was busy. At the age of 30, in 1913, he was named editor of The Masses, one of the seminal publications of the early twentieth century American left. He transformed the magazine, both radicalizing its socialist politics and infusing them with a sense of literary and artistic élan. Over the next decade or so, he went to Russia to witness first-hand the new Bolshevik order, quickly befriended the leaders of the Soviet Union, produced a masterful translation of Trotsky’s epic History of the Russian Revolution, and mesmerized crowds of Americans with lectures against war and on a dozen other subjects about which he seemed to be effortlessly fluent and captivating.

There is an excellent case to be made that we should remember Eastman for these accomplishments, and others, rather than for the dysfunction of his personal life. He was a major and in most cases salutary figure on the American left for a few decades, and a relatively benign figure on the center and right for another few decades after that. He wrote some wonderful essays, and some good books. He showed genuine political and moral courage as a suffragist, anti-war activist, and anti-Stalinist. Even his truly astonishing degree of promiscuity had its redemptive aspects. He was open about sex and pleasure at a time when such openness was rare and valuable. To those on today’s left, gaining traction once again after many decades on the margins, his biography looks exceptional: a life that intersected with major historical events and impacted a mass audience.

Christoph Irmscher’s Max Eastman: A Life doesn’t make this case. Irmscher, a professor of English at the University of Indiana, clearly knows the politics and history Eastman lived and influenced, though they are not his focus. Born in 1883, in upstate New York, Eastman was raised by two politically progressive, theologically heterodox Protestant ministers. His father Samuel was by far the lesser of the two, his light dim against the fiery sun that was Annis Eastman, a feminist and one of the first women to be ordained in the Congregationalist Church. Annis doted on her three children, particularly Max, and expected great things of them. She also cultivated the kind of home environment that stacked the deck in favor of producing great, or at least complicated and fascinating, people. The Eastman household was a bubbling cauldron of emotional enmeshment, intellectual and sexual sublimation, feminism, progressivism, religious intensity, and interesting people coming and going.

Eastman flourished and suffered in this space. He imbibed early a sense of himself as destined for greatness, and a fierce interest in the world in all its intellectual, spiritual, and physical manifestations. He also was plagued by anxiety, self-doubt, and real and psychosomatic ailments. By the time he arrived in Greenwich Village in 1907, after graduating from Williams College, he had purged himself of most of the outward expressions of his infirmities, and almost instantly cut a charismatic, romantic figure within the cultural and political milieu that would come to be known as the “lyrical left.”

The list of things Eastman did that mattered on the left, from about 1910 to 1940, is staggering. He published John Reed on the Bolshevik Revolution and Randolph Bourne against the war. He smuggled Lenin’s last testament out of Russia, and translated Trotsky into English. He stood up to the U.S. government, and won, when they tried to imprison him for spreading sedition in The Masses. He was one of the earliest American Trotskyists, and then one of the most important skeptics and rejecters of Trotskyism. He was also, in everything he did, an important symbol to many of a certain way of being and acting.

“He came before us then as the fair-haired apostle of the new poetry,” wrote one admirer, “the knight errant of a new and rebellious generation, the man who was making his dreams come true—as poet, as thinker, as editor, as teacher, as psychologist, as philosopher, as a yea-sayer of the joy and adventure of living in the fullest and richest sense of the word.… Life was bursting in all its radiance all around him. For him existence was a fight, a song, a revolution, a poem, an affirmation.”

After breaking with the socialist left, Eastman didn’t cease to be good-looking or charismatic, but the easy alignment between his persona and his politics broke down. He began writing for Reader’s Digest, perhaps the least revolutionary of American publications. He articulated a more conservative politics, in defense of the un-romantic virtues of liberal democracy against the revolutionary claims of socialism. He became a cautious defender of Joseph McCarthy, and a scourge of left-wing and liberal intellectuals whom he believed were wrong on communism and the Soviet Union. “I don’t like McCarthy and I think he’s something of a ham and he is both ignorant and crude,” Eastman wrote to a friend in 1954, “but my objection to him is that he is doing badly a job that has to be done, and that distinguishes me from most of the people whom I call mush-headed liberals, who seem to have even less of the understanding than McCarthy has of the danger to civilization in this totalitarian moment.”

Irmscher in his book describes accurately the relevant encounters, moments, writings, and relationships. He gets the arc, from mama’s boy to neurasthenic student to golden lion of the lyrical left to, finally, idiosyncratic conservative. He competently analyzes the currents of the American left in which Eastman swam, and Eastman’s philosophical differences with intellectual giants like John Dewey, Sigmund Freud, and Leon Trotsky—but he doesn’t seem to care about any of it.

What concerns Irmscher above all is the romantic and sexual life of Max Eastman. After Rauh, Eastman married twice more, in both cases to Eastern European emigrés who adored him, supported him emotionally and often financially, and somewhat grudgingly tolerated the endless procession of younger women Eastman felt compelled to woo and seduce and love and leave. In addition to the actress Deshon, there was the poet Genevieve Taggard, the dancer Lisa Duncan, the painter Ione Robinson. Add to these Nina Smirnova, Vera Zaliasnik, Charmion von Wigand, Scudder Middleton, Florence Southard, Florence Norton, and so many, many (many) more. There was also his sister, the radical writer and feminist Crystal Eastman, with whom he is thought to have had, at the very least, an erotically charged relationship.

Sex, love, romance, and jealousy are not intrinsically uninteresting material. Great novels are made of such stuff. But Eastman’s love life, after a while, wasn’t interesting. It was repetitive and hollow. He liked seducing women. He enjoyed sex. He was good at it. Every so often, until the end, he would fall desperately in love with some fresh-faced younger woman. He would write lyrical letters to her and sometimes even mediocre poems, but he wouldn’t leave Eliena (or later, Yvette) for her.

When he was young these affairs could be sexy and glamorous. As he aged, they came to seem sad and compulsive. “My love, I would give my soul to lie in your arms tonight,” he wrote to the 24-year-old Florence Deshon in 1917, when he was 34. Twelve years later, at the age of 46, he was making a version of the same speech to the 17-year-old painter Ione Robinson, a protégé of his second wife. A decade later, now 56, he wrote to the 18-year-old Creigh Collins: “I want to sit all day in the big arm chair with your head warm between my knees, and poetry, poetry floating around me on your young voice as though thrushes carried its meaning to my ear.” A year later he impregnated his secretary, the 25-year-old Florence Norton. When she asked for his help in getting an abortion, “Max provided a doctor’s address but otherwise became ‘hysterical’ and essentially abandoned her.” While she was getting a “painful, nauseating abortion,” Eastman was at his house in Croton-on-Hudson, safely back in the orbit of his wife.

The last few decades of Eastman’s life present a problem to any biographer, since they were substantially less interesting than what had come before. His writing was more predictable and less generous in spirit. He led no magazines, and wasn’t particularly central to those to which he contributed. He wielded some influence in conservative and anti-communist circles, through organizations like the American Committee for Cultural Freedom and magazines like National Review, but he was essential to none of them. His memoirs, Enjoyment of Living in 1948 and Love and Revolution in 1964, were interesting as documents of his age, and for their unusual frankness about sex, but they weren’t great books.

Eastman himself seemed to be aware of the problem. Irmscher suggests that he responded, in part, by doubling down on sex. “His political world shrunken to the size of his country cottage or to a sheet in his typewriter,” writes Irmscher,

Max’s overactive erotic life took on dimensions that would have seemed unmanageable to lesser men. … His correspondence files bulge with letters from women, some of whom have left only their first names to posterity, among them Marie, Lillian, Rada, Creigh, Martha, Amy, and, inevitably, a series of Florences.

Irsmcher is persuasive that Eastman was compensating for a decline in his political influence and a dimming of his myth. The problem, for the biography, is that there is no larger theory of the meaning and significance of Eastman’s life within which to situate this observation. So the book just follows Eastman into his decadence.

It’s easy, as the examples of his womanizing pile up, to lose sight of the reasons why Eastman is the subject not just of this biography but a number of full biographies before it, dozens of chapters in histories and studies of the American left, and thousands of sentences and paragraphs and pages in other books, articles, essays, and documentaries on American political and cultural life in the twentieth century. In April of this year, Routledge re-issued his 1926 book Marx, Lenin and the Science of Revolution. Eastman appears as one of the five featured subjects of Jeremy McCarter’s new group biography Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals. To the extent that he continues to be read and written about, it’s because of the work that put him at the center of a certain kind of literary and political life for decades. That he was a cad is good to know, but if that were the last or first word about him, there would be no reason to read a word about him almost 50 years after his death.

Irmscher ends Max Eastman: A Life on the sands of Jungle Beach, in Martha’s Vineyard, where Eastman liked to frolic nude. It is a natural end for the book, but it ill serves Eastman’s legacy. It forces us, once again, to dwell too exclusively on his private character, which can’t withstand the scrutiny.

“Among those on the Vineyard who like to shed their clothes,” writes Irmscher,

Max is still remembered, without any equivocation, as a great hero, a god during a time when the island wasn’t yet the playground of the rich and people still loved their bodies. ‘He was a rascal and a rake,’ remembers one longtime Vineyard resident, now in his late seventies. Not only was he always naked, he always had three or four naked women with him. ‘He was a great believer in life. How can you believe in life if you’re all clothed?’ And thus Max Eastman lives on, in the memory of some, a modern God Pan, though more handsome and with soft hands, parting the bushes, stepping out onto the warm sand and into the flowing sun.

Six months after Eastman died, his son Daniel Eastman died, either by heart attack or suicide. As a final revenge on his father, Daniel left his inheritance—some of the land the old man loved most dearly—to a chippy he’d been messing around with. Yvette cleaned up Daniel’s mess, as she had always done for his father, paying the woman some quick cash to give up her claim to the land and go away. This is a natural end to Max Eastman: A Life, but it is much less than Eastman deserves.


The little-known story of the men who fought for women’s votes

By Brooke Kroeger

On May 6, 1911, under perfect blue skies, 10,000 spectators lined both sides of Fifth Avenue “from the curb to the building line” for the second annual New York Suffrage Day parade. Somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 marchers strode in a stream of purple, green, and white, from 57th Street to a giant rally in Union Square. Bicolored banners demarcated the groups by their worldly work, as architects, typists, aviators, explorers, nurses, physicians, actresses, shirtwaist makers, cooks, painters, writers, chauffeurs, sculptors, journalists, editors, milliners, hairdressers, office holders, librarians, decorators, teachers, farmers, artists’ models, “even pilots with steamboats painted on their banners.” Women’s work was the point.

To draw broad attention for this spectacle, the women had help from a single troupe of men in their midst — 89 in all, by most accounts — dressed not in the Scottish kilts of the bagpipers or the smartly pressed uniforms of the bands, but in suits, ties, fedoras, and the odd top hat. They marched four abreast in the footsteps of the women, under a banner of their own.

These men were not random supporters but representatives of a momentous, yet subtly managed, development in the suffrage movement’s seventh decade. Eighteen months earlier, 150 men of means or influence or both had joined together under their own charter to become what their banner proclaimed them, the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage. Since the end of 1909, they had been speaking, writing, editing or publishing, planning, and lobbying New York’s governor and legislators on behalf of the suffrage cause.

​They did so until the vote was won.

Many of their names resound through history as political kingmakers and promoters of such progressive causes as civil rights, child welfare, the educational advancement of black Americans, and, later, disarmament.

A merican men as individuals had publicly supported the rights of women as far back as 1775, when Thomas Paine published his essay “An Occasional Letter on the Female Sex.” After the Seneca Falls Convention to support women’s rights in 1848, other men wrote more specifically in support of women’s enfranchisement, notably William Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Frederick Douglass. In England, John Stuart Mill’s “The Subjection of Women,” published in 1869, echoed many of the arguments that his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, had presented in “The Enfranchisement of Women,” 18 years earlier. And briefly, between 1874 and 1875, a Young Men’s Woman Suffrage League met in New York City, fielding pro-suffrage speakers from its membership — physicians, attorneys, and professors among them — at some 80 meetings in the Plimpton Building, at 30 Stuyvesant Street in what is now the East Village.

Yet to take on the cause of women’s suffrage was almost always to do so at a price, especially for men. So it was on the parade line in 1911, where the men endured what, for the times, were unforgettably pernicious assaults on their masculinity. “Hold up your skirts, girls!” rowdy onlookers shouted. “You won’t get any dinner unless you march all the way, Vivian!” For all two miles of the walk, a newspaper clipping recounted, the men submitted to “jeers, whistles, ‘mea-a-ows,’ and such cries as ‘Take that handkerchief out of your cuff.’”

In time, male suffragists would become commonplace — and then all but forgotten as an orchestrated movement force. This is not so surprising. The story of the triumph of the suffrage cause has long belonged to the women, and rightly so. In the century since New York State granted women the vote, in November 1917, strikingly few details about the men’s efforts have thus emerged.

F rom a contemporary standpoint, it is remarkable to consider that 100 years ago, these prominent men not only gave their names to the cause of women’s rights or called in the odd favor, but invested in the fight. They created and ran an organization expressly committed to an effort that, up until the point at which they joined, had been seen as women’s work for a marginal nonstarter of a cause. From the beginning of their involvement, these men willingly acted on orders from and in tandem with the women who ran the greater state and national suffrage campaigns. How many times in American history has such collaboration happened, especially with this balance of power?

This episode in the suffrage epic provides a means of observing the shift in the common perception of the suffrage movement as a whole. It also demonstrates the strategic brilliance of a decision by leaders in NAWSA, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the main suffrage organization in the United States, to cultivate relationships with the well-heeled and the well-connected — women as well as men. In this period, Katherine Duer Mackay, wife of the communications mogul Clarence Mackay, and Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, widow of the businessman and politician O.H.P. Belmont, formed and presided over influential pro-suffrage societies. Dashing pro-suffrage couples of the period were James Lees Laidlaw, the financier who was on the board of directors of what became Standard & Poor’s, and his wife, Harriet Burton Laidlaw Frederick Nathan, the wealthy scion of an important Sephardi Jewish family, and his wife, the social activist Maud Nathan, his first cousin, also born a Nathan. Narcissa Cox Vanderlip and her husband, Frank A. Vanderlip, who was the president of the National City Bank of New York, were deeply involved, as were Vira Boarman Whitehouse and her husband, the stockbroker James Norman de Rapelye Whitehouse. In short order, the media attention they attracted brightly burnished the movement’s image in the mainstream press.

Over the course of these crucial years, the staunchly anti-suffrage editorial stance of such newspapers as the New York Times and the New York Herald bled a little less heavily onto their news pages. Editorialists, especially at the Times, took longer. As the Men’s League emerged in New York, and was rapidly cloned in city and county chapters across the state and well beyond, the mocking derision and dismissiveness that initially dominated coverage of the “Mere Men” in particular, and of the suffrage movement more broadly, gave way to acceptance of an idea whose time was about to come.

As the movement grew in strength and acceptance, its important new champions attracted beneficial press, whether they gave speeches, appeared at marches or at social gatherings, worked the halls of influence in Albany and Washington, or crafted or published buzz-worthy essays or attention-getting diatribes in the form of letters to the editor.

Beyond the arc of change in press coverage and public perception, it is worth noting other aspects of the male suffragists’ lives. For one, there are the personal relationships that motivated them to take up what in 1908 was still widely viewed as a laughably unimportant cause. Standing for the rights of workers was surely a factor for reformers like Max Eastman. His sister, Crystal Eastman his girlfriend for part of this period, Inez Milholland, who remained a close friend and his first wife, Ida Rauh, were all deeply involved with the labor reform movement, notably the shirtwaist workers strike of 1909–1910. Unsurprisingly, behind nearly every one of the men who put the most energy and time into the suffrage movement was an ardent movement activist (or two, or three, or four) who, as in Eastman’s case, also happened to be his wife, his mother, his sister, or his love interest. Daughters could also prove persuasive, as evidenced by the involvement of John Milholland, father of Inez, and ultimately by the evolving position of President Woodrow Wilson, two of whose daughters, Margaret and Jessie, were known to be pro-suffrage.

Worth appraisal, too, is the strategic decision of NAWSA president Anna Howard Shaw and her colleagues, after a long period of reluctance, to solicit or embrace the offers of support from these particular new allies. NAWSA did this assuming that participation was likely to be nominal. Shaw asked little. Yet the new male activists, like their society lady counterparts, gave of themselves far beyond what NAWSA’s leaders had expected. In fact, before too long, these dignified gents showed a surprising willingness to don costumes, act, dance, and work the streets. They attended city, county, state, national, and international meetings. They joined delegations and hosted lavish banquets. They lobbied at the state and national levels and issued loud, formal, headline-producing protests when the police in New York and Washington mistreated marchers or left them unprotected against the onslaught of catcalling, brickbatting mobs. The lawyers among them stepped up to represent the women suffragists who wound up in court.

Robert Cameron Beadle, secretary of the Men’s League of New York after Eastman, rode horseback from New York to Washington, D.C., with a women’s equestrian delegation. The Nathans and Laidlaws made statewide automobile recruitment trips. On separate occasions, the two couples went national, traveling out West to work on separate state suffrage campaigns.

As Shaw had presumed would happen, the planning minutiae and execution of the men’s involvement in major events often fell to the women.

Of course, in this period there were also vocal male detractors from the same professional and editorial classes. Pearson’s and Ladies’ Home Journal commissioned major anti-suffrage investigations by the journalist Richard Barry that in turn brought a barrage of published rebuttal. Men’s anti-suffrage groups formed in reaction, but with not nearly the staying power, constancy, support, or impact of the male forces that supported the cause. And yet more than once, an invited male speaker — including a sitting president — stunned his hosts and audiences by speaking publicly against women’s suffrage at movement-sponsored events.

With few exceptions, it is also evident from the relative paucity of references to suffrage in the biographies, autobiographies, and personal correspondence of the Men’s League’s influential founders — Peabody, Wise, and Villard in particular — that local, state, and national elections, affairs of state, and civil rights took clear precedence over suffrage on their agendas. This was true even at moments when suffrage was as big a front-page story.

The men’s important contributions were especially apparent during the New York legislative and voter victories of 1917. Who else but the prominent men among the movement’s declared backers had such ready personal access to the — also male — state and federal legislators and government leaders, to publishers, or to the editorial elite? It worked to the movement’s extreme advantage that so many League members and leaders were themselves publishers and the editorial elite. Twice, Eastman sparred publicly with Theodore Roosevelt. At various points, Peabody, Villard, Wise, Creel, Harvey, Hapgood, Malone, and Eastman all had Woodrow Wilson’s ear. Most of them were among Wilson’s earliest political backers Eastman had his respect. Creel, in the critical period when Wilson at long last came out in favor of the federal suffrage amendment, was on “terms of intimacy” with the president, meeting with him almost daily in his capacity as chair of the Committee on Public Information after the United States entered World War I in 1917.

No doubt an accumulation of other factors, far greater than the Men’s Leagues, led to the ultimate success of the women’s suffrage campaign: seven long decades of effort by passionate women, the changing times and political winds, the burgeoning public support, the growing number of states where women with the vote could influence outcomes, the movingly sacrificial role women played after the United States entered World War I. Still, once the details are known, it is hard to ignore the boost that the men provided. Their involvement amounted to more than an “influential factor” or “invaluable help.” Their commitment showcases the value elite individuals who act with care can bring to marginalized movements, particularly those with social justice aims. The impact of Men’s League actions a century ago speaks loudly to the strategic importance of cultivating people with influence and magnetic media appeal, those who can attract positive public attention, open access to those in positions of power, and alter public perception.

It was a major departure for men of such stature to decide that it mattered for women to vote, to recognize that as a chartered pro-suffrage organization, men could wield influence in ways that women could not, and to understand that to make a difference, they would be required to offer more than an early-20th-century equivalent of a celebrity endorsement or a goodwill ambassadorship — the kinds of gestures we see most often today. The founders of the Men’s League knew that to help sway the course of history, they needed a full-fledged national, then multinational, organization, with all the effort and expense that implied. They needed an entity in which men of great standing would subordinate themselves to women in a women-driven enterprise devoted to a “women’s cause,” and would claim center stage only when called upon or needed to do so.

This article appears, in slightly different form, in The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote (State University of New York Press, Albany, 2017), by Brooke Kroeger.

At Timeline, we reveal the forces that shaped America’s past and present. Our team and the Timeline community are scouring archives for the most visually arresting and socially important stories, and using them to explain how we got to now. To help us tell more stories, please consider becoming a Timeline member.


What is IDA?

The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries. Overseen by 173 shareholder nations, IDA aims to reduce poverty by providing zero to low-interest loans (called “credits”) and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities, and improve people’s living conditions.

IDA complements the World Bank’s original lending arm—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). IBRD was established to function as a self-sustaining business and provides loans and advice to middle-income and credit-worthy poor countries. IBRD and IDA share the same staff and headquarters and evaluate projects with the same rigorous standards.

IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 74 poorest countries and is the single largest source of donor funds for basic social services in these countries. IDA lends money on concessional terms. This means that IDA credits have a zero or very low interest charge and repayments are stretched over 30 to 40 years, including a 5- to 10-year grace period. IDA also provides grants to countries at risk of debt distress.

In addition to concessional loans and grants, IDA provides significant levels of debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, IDA commitments totaled $30.48 billion, of which 26 percent was provided on grant terms. This includes 305 new projects. Furthermore, IDA’s support is part of the broader $160 billion World Bank Group response to the COVID-19 pandemic over a 15-month period ending June 2021. It includes $50-55 billion in low-interest credits and grants focused on saving lives, protecting the poor and vulnerable, creating jobs, saving businesses, and building a more resilient recovery. Since 1960, IDA has provided $422 billion for investments in 114 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $25 billion over the last three years.

IDA is a multi-issue institution, supporting a range of development activities that pave the way toward equality, economic growth, job creation, higher incomes, and better living conditions. IDA's work covers primary education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate improvements, infrastructure, and institutional reforms.


Labor History

O’Sullivan, the first female organizer for the American Federation of Labor, was born on this date in 1864. She organized the Woman’s Bookbinder Union and was a founder of the National Women’s Trade Union League.
photo: Leaders of the Women’s Trade Union in 1907. Shown from left to right are Hannah Hennessy, Ida Rauh, Mary Dreir, Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, Margaret Robins, Margie Jones, Agnes Nestor and Helen Marot.

This week’s Labor History Today podcast: A very unusual strike
On today’s show, originally released January 6, 2019, we talk with historian Erik Loomis about frustrated workers in a very unusual place who decided to strike in a very unusual way.
Last week’s show: (12/29): 100 years of the ILO

The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee ends the “Great Steel Strike.” Some 350,000 to 400,000 steelworkers had been striking for more than three months, demanding union recognition. The strike failed – 1920


The Passions of Max Eastman

One of the “hottest radicals” of the early twentieth century, Max Eastman is now largely left out of the pantheon of the left. Can we still learn from this idiosyncratic editor today?

Eric Arnesen &squarf Winter 2018 Max Eastman, 1900 (Library of Congress)

Max Eastman: A Life
by Christoph Irmscher
Yale University Press, 2017, 434 pp.

The history of the American left has produced its share of heroes and celebrities. The memory of Eugene Debs has survived for his righteous indignation over capitalist inequality, Emma Goldman for her feminism and passionate anti-statism, W.E.B. Du Bois for his trenchant analysis of racial oppression, Mother Jones for her tireless advocacy on behalf of labor, and Joe Hill for his music and martyrdom. These women and men all touched moral chords whose echoes move us in the present. They make up what historian Eric Foner calls our “ongoing radical tradition,” one in which socialism “refers not to a blueprint for a future society but to the need to rein in the excesses of capitalism, . . . to empower ordinary people in a political system verging on plutocracy, and to develop policies that make opportunity real for the millions of Americans for whom it is not.”

But the radical tradition contains more than enduring egalitarian passion. The history of the twentieth-century American left also includes the failure of many left movements, as well as the eventual disaffection of so many activists who made up their ranks. The impulse to highlight the heroic is understandable, but it leaves unanswered the key questions of how and why those movements failed or why so many abandoned the left. A selective memory that overlooks the less admirable dimensions of the left’s history serves today’s progressives poorly.

Max Eastman does not occupy a place in the pantheon of the left. He once did. By the end of the First World War, he was “one of the hottest of radicals” of his day, in the words of Countryside magazine. To the few on the left who remember him, he was the idiosyncratic editor who breathed creative life into the journal the Masses and who, with courage and humor, defied the government’s attempt to silence him and his colleagues in a sedition trial during the First World War. To the even fewer on the right who recognize his name, it was Eastman’s journey from the left into the anticommunist camp in the late 1930s and 1940s that stands out. Eastman’s name, then, is largely forgotten and his legacy for both left and right unsurprisingly remains unexplored.

That’s unfortunate, though not because he can be pressed into contemporary political service—his analyses and writings are too idiosyncratic and shifting to be of actual use to anybody. Eastman was a self-absorbed seeker of the spotlight for whom self-promotion and the pursuit of pleasure too often competed with his political commitments. His critique of Marxism is of largely academic value, since its influence, even in its day, was hard to discern. And while his eventual embrace of free-market capitalism in the 1940s and 1950s may have kept him in the limelight, he was more a popularizer of conservative ideas and spouter of right-wing dogma than he was a deep thinker of the right. So why bother with Max Eastman at all?

Eastman’s life story casts light on important parts of the history of twentieth-century radical politics. It reminds us of the intensity of ideological debate and of the countless factional battles and sectarian struggles that defined left politics and engrossed so many partisan combatants. Eastman’s early embrace of the Bolshevik model revealed the facile infatuation of many American leftists with a foreign model that had little applicability to the United States. His disillusionment with that model and evolving critique first of Stalinism and eventually of Marxism itself may have been prescient, but the hostile reception of that critique by those in the orbit of the communist left displayed the baleful influence of party doctrine and discipline that required automatic rejection. Eastman’s journey from left to right is a poignant reminder that immersion in the communist left of the 1920s and 1930s gave rise to a surprising number of angry defectors who infused the anticommunist camp with their bitter, first-hand personal experiences. For those interested in the left’s history, Eastman’s life offers more than a few cautionary tales.

These are not, however, the matters than animate Eastman’s latest biography. “Max Eastman was, for quite some time, one of the most widely known American writers both at home and abroad,” begins Christoph Irmscher in his new book. “[A]dmired and loved, loathed and lambasted,” Eastman lived a life that resisted efforts to fit it into a “neat story line.” Perhaps so, but Irmscher attempts to do so by highlighting the personal over the political. His is an intimate biography of one of the twentieth century’s more flamboyant political writers, a sophisticated and meticulously researched account of a political celebrity. We learn much about the psychological demons haunting Eastman from childhood until death we learn something about his political passions as he traversed continents and the ideological spectrum. What we don’t quite learn is why Eastman matters. The answer to that question lies not in the personal but in the political, not in the immediate biographical detail, but its placement onto the wider political canvas.

Born in 1883 in upstate New York, Eastman studied philosophy at Columbia under John Dewey, attended suffrage meetings, and became a well-known speaker on the lecture circuit. His sister Crystal, herself a prominent activist, introduced him to Ida Rauh, an attorney and secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League, who in turn introduced him to the works of Marx and Engels, a body of writing he would engage with, first from the left and later from the right, for the rest of his life. He quickly came to see his marriage to Rauh in 1911 as a grave mistake, one that led to the loss of what he called his “irrational joy in life.” That problem he addressed by having affairs with other women, a recurring pattern that Irmscher covers in copious detail.

Eastman’s entrée into the broader world of left-wing politics was an invitation to edit the Masses, a job that conveniently got him out of his house in rural Connecticut and away from his wife and newborn son. How and why Max embraced Marxism is not Irmscher’s concern Eastman’s transformation of the Masses into a feisty, creative journal opposed to dogmatism is. With war raging in Europe, Eastman, like a good socialist, declared that he did “not recognize the right of a government to draft me to [a] war whose purposes I do not believe in.” He delivered antiwar speeches across the country on behalf of the People’s Council of America for Democracy and the Terms of Peace. Repression eventually caught up with him when the postmaster general barred the Masses from the mail a mob of soldiers forced him to flee from a speaking engagement in Fargo, North Dakota, and the government indicted him and other Masses writers for unlawfully obstructing the draft. Two trials in 1918 failed to convict the defendants but afforded them a pulpit to denounce the war further. The Masses went out of business. Eastman, with his sister Crystal, simply founded a new magazine, the Liberator.

Then, in 1922, it was off to Europe to witness the fruits of the victorious Bolshevik Revolution up close. “At the age of thirty-nine he had divested himself of most of the responsibilities others entering middle age have accumulated,” Irmscher observes, “and he was eager for new adventures.” Adventures are what he got in the Soviet Union. He attended party conferences, met with leading Soviet officials, immersed himself in the study of the Russian language, wrote articles, worked on a novel and a biography of Trotsky, had multiple affairs, and otherwise enjoyed an extended vacation of several years’ duration. He was initially impressed with what he saw: “Even the beggars in their dust-colored rags seemed young and hopeful, their wonderful faces radiating contentment,” in Irmscher’s words. The horror stories some Russians shared with him made little impression on the radical American writer. In the pieces he sent back to the United States, he was “reinventing Moscow as a larger version of Greenwich Village.”

Eastman’s political myopia eventually gave way to a somewhat clearer view of what was transpiring around him. The “dogged chanting of party songs” at conferences annoyed him, as did the humorlessness of party officials. He became fascinated by Leon Trotsky just as the veteran revolutionary’s star was fading. Lenin’s death in 1924 and the ensuing factional battles that saw Stalin victorious troubled him. With his new Russian wife, Eliena Krylenko, he decamped for France where he continued to write, supported by royalties and his spouse’s wages. What he wrote placed him at odds with the dominant faction in the Soviet Union and its followers in the United States. While hardly uncritical of Trotsky, Eastman sang his praises in a biography of his early years. In a short but hard-hitting volume, After Lenin Died (1925), he highlighted Lenin’s preference for Trotsky as his successor and denounced the triumph of Stalin and his allies whose thirst for power was slaked by their “deceiving, or bewildering, or bull dozing, or otherwise silencing, or scattering to the ends of the earth, all those strong Communists who might oppose them” in their “dictatorship of the officialdom.”

Needless to say, those words did not endear him to the communist left. Upon his return to the United States he found a country that barely remembered him and a left-wing community in which he was hardly welcome. Robert Minor, a cartoonist, communist, and editor of the Liberator, trashed Eastman’s Leon Trotsky: The Portrait of a Youth, in the pages of the Daily Worker for its “hysterical attack upon the Communist International” and its author’s “vilification of the Soviet government.” Bertram Wolfe took him to task in the pages of the Communist for his theoretical forays against “Marxian metaphysics,” concluding that “Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection had nothing on Eastman when it comes to admiring himself.” Eastman’s relationship with Trotsky, whose writings he translated, had its ups and downs before their falling-out became permanent in the mid-1930s with Trotsky’s frustration over royalties and with Eastman’s insistence on dialectics as a “‘metaphysical contraption,’ and nothing more, theology, in other words, but not science.” Eastman was not a Trotskyist and, try as he might, he did not remain much of a Marxist either.

His return to the United States was “not a triumphant one,” Irmscher notes. “He had no position to come back to, no audiences eager for this thoughts.” The lecture circuit provided him with new admirers and income, he began new affairs, and he published literary, psychological, and political works. A brief stint as the host of the radio game show Word Game in the late 1930s eased his financial problems, and his anti-Stalinism generated regular work as a paid speaker. The latter activity, unsurprisingly, only reinforced the communists’ dislike of Eastman. At one point, they accused him of being a spy for the British government, resulting in a lawsuit and a $1,500 settlement that Eastman collected.

By the late 1930s he had given up on Marxism. He returned American communists’ opprobrium with fire of his own, accusing “Stalin’s apostles” of undertaking a stealth campaign against democracy and the American way of life, aided by countless liberals and other non-communists who joined front organizations during the Popular Front years. In so charging Eastman was hardly alone right-wingers had been making the same case for years. Here, Irmscher argues, Eastman crossed a line, for he “named names, in eerie anticipation of the witch hunts of the 1950s.” The charge is anachronistic and, whatever one thinks of the organizations Eastman identified, the participation of Theodore Dreiser, Paul Robeson, and selected others was a fairly reliable indication of party activity behind the scenes. It may be “that none of these people belong to the Communist Party,” Eastman admitted, “but wherever their names are played up in a political ‘cause,’ you may suspect that a party nucleus is at work in the underground.” He wasn’t generally wrong.

The ferocity of Eastman’s anticommunism led the editor of Reader’s Digest to hire him as a “roving editor” and pay him handsomely for his articles. Eastman needed the money the Digest provided him with a huge outlet for his ideas, even if the work was at times degrading and his relationship with its editor humiliating. Now the “rupture with his former comrades” was complete. For “every new friend he made Max was losing dozens of old ones,” Irmscher concludes. In the years ahead, Eastman would continue his anticommunist diatribes, ally (uneasily) with William F. Buckley and his National Review, and offer rationalizations for Senator Joseph McCarthy’s crusade. (The term “witchhunt,” he declared in 1952, was “a new smear tactic invented by the Commies and their fellow travelers when the word Red-baiter got worn out.” Those denounced as witch-hunters were “in the main clear-headed patriots of freedom.”) Eastman, by his own definition, had become a “radical conservative” before settling on “libertarian conservative.”

Irmscher finds a degree of continuity in Eastman’s outlook as he moved from left to right. “Through all the permutations of his political views,” he insists, “one hope had remained the same for Max: that the reforms he advocated as a pragmatist, feminist, socialist, and defender of the Bolsheviks and then of Trotsky would result in greater freedom for the individual to do exactly what he or she wanted.” That’s an unsatisfying conclusion. Irmscher is more on the mark when he avers that Eastman had from the beginning wanted nothing more than “his freedom, the freedom to do and think what he wanted to do and think.” Eastman would not have disagreed. “I care more about the freedom for the body and soul of man than I do about what is called ‘social justice,’” he admitted. His version of utopia, Irmscher maintains, was “a place of continued sexual pleasure in which all living things are equal, all wishes are gratified, nothing decays, the resources are infinite, and no one needs to feel guilty about anything at all.” Nice work if you can get it.

Eastman’s pursuit of “freedom” remained an individual one, carried out from the lectern, in publications, and in the bedroom, rarely tested through participation in actual social or political movements. To the extent that he found that freedom for himself on Martha’s Vineyard, where he purchased a house, it was because of the income flowing in from lectures and the Digest and the many women he pursued successfully over the years. He never recognized that satisfying his own freedom often rested on the subordination of those around him. This should not be surprising, given the times. But Eastman’s approach was hardly a model for others.

William O’Neill’s excellent The Last Romantic: A Life of Max Eastman, published in 1978, focused on the more political dimension of Eastman’s life and remains an indispensable history of the left. Irmscher’s biography, in contrast, is more about the personal rather than political side of Eastman’s life. His detailed reconstruction of Eastman’s romantic entanglements, insecurities, anxieties, and passions is largely made possible by his unrestricted access to the Eastman papers at Indiana University.

Was Eastman’s life important? Eastman shaped the socialist left in the 1910s and became an astute critic of Stalinism in the 1920s and 1930s, even if his contributions to Marxist theory proved fleeting and, later, his contributions to anticommunism were clichéd. His poetry, one novel, and volumes on laughter have not endured. Max’s great fear, Irmscher suggests, was that “he might be talking only to himself.” He wasn’t. But his legacy was shorter lived than he might have wished.

Remarking on Eastman’s first volume of autobiography, Enjoyment of Living, in 1948, the New York Times reviewer Orville Prescott found that “[r]eading it does not convey the impression that Mr. Eastman enjoyed his life particularly, nor does it give much enjoyment to the reader.” Like Salvador Dalí, whose autobiography Prescott did not appreciate either, Eastman seemed to believe that because something happened to him “it is necessarily interesting.” As for his “erotic longings,” Eastman “broadcasts his at the top of his voice,” recalling them with an “enthusiasm proper only to the psychiatrist’s office.” “‘What of it?’ one asks. ‘Why do you insist on telling all this?’” were Prescott’s deflating questions.

Given that Eastman is a largely forgotten figure today, Prescott’s questions can be asked of this new biography. Irmscher skillfully reconstructs a life marked by desire, pleasure, pain, and tortured human relationships. But what of it? The connection between Eastman’s personal life and the broader political forces in which it was embedded remains elusive.

Eastman may not belong in the left’s Hall of Fame. It is difficult to fit his flawed life into the “ongoing radical tradition” that today’s left wishes to build upon. But the “rich heritage of American radicalism,” as Foner calls it, is inseparable from a less admirable heritage (to put it mildly), one that cannot be set aside because it is inconvenient or embarrassing. To the extent that Eastman is of relevance today, it is to remind us that awareness of the entirety of the left tradition may be of greater value than a selective past that may appear to be useful, but is ultimately misleading.

Eric Arnesen is professor of history at George Washington University and Vice Dean for Faculty and Administration in its Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. He is writing a biography of A. Philip Randolph.


Watch the video: Geguritan Bali. Cupak Grantang (January 2022).