Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 18, 2019

Left, Gay, and Green

Filed under: Catskills,Gay,Kevin Coogan — louisproyect @ 7:45 pm

From my comic book memoir:


Just over five years ago an article I had scanned from the July 20, 1947 PM newspaper titled “Utopia in the Catskills” appeared in CounterPunch. PM was a leftist newspaper that published between 1940 and 1948 and as such found Woodridge, my little village in the Catskills, as noteworthy as some on the left find Rojava. Reporter Croswell Bowen was impressed with the co-op movement that for all I know was more advanced than Rojava:

Actually, Woodridge is unique among the neighboring communities, because it possesses five highly successful consumer co-operatives, owned and operated by their members. Three of the five comprise one large intercounty co-operative association. All five are loosely connected with national co-operative groups which furnish over a billion dollars in services and goods to more than 2,500,000 member-owners throughout the United States each year. In practice, the Woodridge co-ops follow along the lines of the Rochdale pioneers.

Among those photographed in the article was one Lou Young, who was chairman of the board of the Inter-County Farmers Co-operative Association and is shown feeding some white roosters. His son Allen was six years old at the time and would soon begin doing chores on the family poultry farm in Glen Wild, a village even tinier than mine. Among his tasks was gathering egg yolks and whites into a gallon jar that would be sold to a local baker in Woodridge, renowned for their challah (the bread Jews ate on Friday nights) as was my father for the kosher dill pickles he made and sold at his fruit store.

When Allen was 12 years old, he accidentally dropped a gallon jar of egg contents in the back of his father’s pick-up truck and felt guilty over the loss of income. In his stunning new biography Left, Gay and Green: a Writer’s Life, Allen vividly recalls his father’s reaction:

It was surely my fault that the jar fell and broke, but I have no recollection of my father getting angry with me. Perhaps, despite all of our family’s financial problems (and the monetary loss associated with the gallon of eggs), be saw the humor in that odd gooey cascade of yellow yolks and shiny albumen (the technical word for egg whites).

I suspect his father’s generosity of spirit might have had something to do with his membership in the Communist Party. Whatever its political failings, the party attracted people who put other people before profits.

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1 Comment »

  1. There’s a workman like but still interesting book on LNS:

    Blake Stonecker, A New Dawn for the New Left (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012).

    The New England Commune turn goes back to the bitter fights in LNS and people like Ray Mungo who were on the other side of the LNS fight and wrote Famous Long Ago, which includes the first attempt to move LNS to a rural farm against Young and the NYC more orthodox Marxists. Stonecker’s book is the only academic study of the fight and the history of LNS. I assume Young was interviewed for it but I can’t remember just now as I read it some years ago.

    LNS was very much anti-Weatherman and it enjoyed much closer ties to Cuba than the Weathermen group did. Rudd went to LNS and totally failed to gain any support if my memory is correct. LNS also issued a damning report on the 1969 Flint “SDS” convention.

    I’d be curious if Young discusses John Gerassi,who also wrote for the big time media as a Latin American correspondent for Newsweek but then broke with the mainstream media and wrote the once famous book The Great Fear in Latin America.

    Comment by HH — January 18, 2019 @ 8:53 pm

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