Leo Huberman

Leo Huberman


* Co-founder and longtime co-editor of the Marxian magazine “Monthly Review”
* Co-founded Monthly Review Press, a large publisher of Marxian books and authors
* Published “We The People” in 1932, a history of the U.S. from a Marxist proletarian perspective
* Chaired the Dept. of Social Science at Columbia University’s New College in 1938-39
* Supporter of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Che Guevara
* Described Israel as “an outpost of imperialism”
* Died on November 9, 1968

Marxist author Leo Huberman co-founded and edited (with Paul Sweezy) the Marxian “independent socialist” magazine Monthly Review. Huberman and Sweezy were “two old-line, pro-Soviet Marxists,” writes historian Ronald Radosh, noting that they called themselves “independent socialists” only because they “had minor differences with the tactics and organizational demands of the official American Communist Party.”

Huberman was born in Newark, New Jersey on October 17, 1903, the tenth of eleven children whose mother and father he once described as “worker intellectuals.” He earned a teaching credential from Newark State Normal School, wed in 1925, and graduated the following year from New York University.

In 1926 Huberman moved to New York City to teach at the private, experimental City and Country School in Greenwich Village. This institution, he wrote, “was at the heart of the burgeoning radical progressive education movement.”

In 1932 Huberman published We The People, a history of the United States from a Marxist proletarian perspective, and subsequently traveled to England to do research at the Fabian socialist London School of Economics. In 1936 he published Man’s Worldly Goods: The Story of The Wealth of Nations, a political and economic history of capitalism which sold half a million copies. Both volumes, wrote the longtime editor/publisher John J. Simon in Monthly Review, “became standard works for the radical education of workers in the growing socialist, communist, and labor movements in the United States and abroad.”

In 1938 Huberman published The Labor Spy Racket, described by Simon as “a biting investigative exposé of the illegal and often bloody techniques used by corporate employers and their goons against the militant unions of the 1930s.”

Also in the 1930s, Huberman spent several years as an associate editor of Scholastic magazine. In 1938-39 he served as chairman of the Department of Social Science at Columbia University‘s New College, which he described as Columbia’s “experiment in progressive higher education.” After that, Huberman worked briefly as the labor editor of the left-wing daily newspaper PM.

In 1940 Huberman published American, Incorporated, a short economic history of the United States from a Marxist perspective. In 1941 he took a job as a columnist for U.S. Week.

From 1942-45, Huberman was the public relations director for the National Maritime Union (NMU) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which later merged into the AFL-CIO. During his tenure at NMU, Huberman coined the union slogan “Every Ship a School” and created propaganda to teach sailors Communism. “During the long, monotonous – but very dangerous – voyages through U-boat infested waters during the Second World War,” wrote John J. Simon, “on-board libraries were used by sailors to teach each other the history of worker’s struggles, Marxism, and socialism as well as the great literary classics.”

An ardent left pamphleteer, Huberman churned out propaganda such as Storm Over Bridges in 1941, a defense of Australian-born longshore union boss Harry Bridges, who was secretly a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Another example of Huberman propaganda was the pro-union tract The Truth About Unions (1946).

In 1948 Huberman was deeply involved in the Progressive Party presidential campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former Vice President Henry Wallace, a losing campaign that was controlled by the Communist Party and whose purpose was to stop Harry Truman’s “cold war” against Joseph Stalin’s expanding empire.

Following Wallace’s defeat, Huberman in 1949 became a founding co-editor of the Marxist journal Monthly Review, which drifted toward Maoism in the late 1950s during the Sino-Soviet split. Originally, Monthly Review was intended to be a non-Party rallying point for fellow Marxists. Friends from the Wallace campaign, including journalist co-editor Paul Sweezy, who had been fired from Harvard for his Communist beliefs, and financial benefactor F.O. Matthieson, a gay socialist professor at Harvard University, helped launch the magazine.

In 1952 Huberman and Sweezy created Monthly Review Press, which went on to become one of America’s largest publishers of Marxian books and authors.

In 1953 Huberman was called to testify as a hostile witness before the Committee on Government Operations, which was chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and sought to root out communist infiltration of the federal government. Huberman’s testimony was published in the August 1953 issue of Monthly Review.

In 1959 and 1960, Huberman and Sweezy visited Cuba, touring the island with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Soon thereafter, Monthly Review Press published the Sweezy-Huberman encomium to Castro’s emerging regime, Cuba: Anatomy of a Revolution. In 1969, MRP published another Huberman-Sweezy collaboration, Socialism in Cuba. In the 1960s Huberman described Israel as “an outpost of imperialism,” stating that “a good case can be made for the argument that [it] was planted on Arab land by the imperialist nations in league with the Arab feudal monarchs precisely for the purpose of keeping themselves in power.” Nevertheless, he condemned Arab eliminationist rhetoric which advocated, as Huberman put it, “the liquidation” of Israel and “the annihilation of its people.”

Huberman died on November 9, 1968. He was replaced as Monthly Review’s co-editor by Marxist economist and suspected Soviet spy Harry Magdoff, who had worked in the Department of Commerce under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman.

Further Reading: Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left (by Ron Radosh, 2001, p. 111); “Leo Huberman: Radical Agitator, Socialist Teacher” (by John J. Simon, Monthly Review, 10-1-2003); “Memorial Service for Paul Marlor Sweezy (1910-2004)” (by John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, 2-27-2004).

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