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Guide to the Max Shachtman Photographs PHOTOS.087

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Erika Gottfried, 2009.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 20, 2018
English

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Shachtman, Max, 1903-1972
Source - dnr: Shachtman, Yetta Barsh
Title: Max Shachtman Photographs
Dates [inclusive]: 1910s-1996, (Bulk: 1930s-1960s)
Dates [bulk]: 1930-1969
Abstract: Max Shachtman (1903-1972) was a writer, editor, political theoretician, and a leader (successively) in the Communist, Trotskyist, and socialist movements, whose views helped shape the outlook of many progressive and liberal anti-communist intellectuals and labor leaders. The Max Shachtman Photographs Collection consists of 220 mainly black and white photographic prints that include portraits and snapshots of Shachtman and his political associates, including Leon Trotsky, and of Shachtman speaking.
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language: Captions are in English, German, Russian, and Czech
Call Phrase: PHOTOS.087

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Historical/Biographical Note

Max Shachtman (1903-1972) was a writer, editor, political theoretician, and a leader (successively) in the communist, Trotskyist, and socialist movements, whose views helped shape the outlook of many progressive and liberal anti-communist intellectuals and labor leaders. His life in politics began when he became interested in Socialist Party politics in high school, with particular sympathy for its left wing. In 1921, he joined the Workers (Communist) Party--the legal, above-ground arm of the Communist Party, and in 1923, at age 19, he moved to Chicago to take over the editorship of the The Young Worker, the magazine of the Party's youth organization. From that point on, he worked full-time as a political operative. Shachtman lived for several years in Chicago, where he honed his political and organizational skills, including his talent as a polemicist, orator, and debater whose speeches were famous for their eloquence, passion, and caustic wit. He rose rapidly to become a national figure in the Party and one of its most promising young leaders, serving as a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee, a delegate to the Fifth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, and to the Seventh Plenum of the Comintern, in Moscow. He also served as the editor of the  Labor Defender (the magazine of the Communist-affiliated International Labor Defense organization). In 1928, however, he was expelled from the Communist Party after adopting Leon Trotsky's dissident views. The following year, he became one of the three principal founders of what became the American Trotskyist movement, organizing -- with James Cannon and Martin Abern -- the Communist League of America.

Shachtman was the first American Trotskyist to meet Leon Trotsky after Trotsky's deportation from the Soviet Union, when he visited the exile's residence on the island of Prinkipo, Turkey, in early 1930. He became a close collaborator with Trotsky, his "commissar for foreign affairs," traveling throughout Europe on his behalf and meeting with members of the Communist opposition movement throughout Europe. He also translated some of Trotsky's major works. He maintained a close relationship with Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, arranging and accompanying them and one of their sons on their secret passage to France. In 1937, he was a member of the group (including painter Frida Kahlo) that greeted Trotsky and Sedova when they arrived at Tampico to take up residence in Mexico, Trotsky's last home. It was Shachtman, too, whom the Workers Party sent to comfort Ms. Sedova after Trotsky's assassination in Mexico City in August 1940. Despite widening political differences between them, he remained friendly with and continued to visit Sedova until the end of her life.

In 1934, the Communist League of America merged with the American Workers Party, another small leftwing opposition group, led by A. J. Muste, to form the Workers Party, and the Workers Party in turn joined the Socialist Party in 1936. In 1937-1938, Shachtman, along with other Trotskyists, was expelled from Socialist Party, and formed the Socialist Workers Party. Shortly after this, however, Shachtman had differences with the SWP's other leadership, and with Trotsky himself, over their view of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and in 1939 he led a splinter group, the Workers Party (renamed the Independent Socialist League in 1949), out of the SWP. During the 1950s, Shachtman developed the political strategy he described as "realignment," which held that U.S. socialists should ally themselves with the leadership of the labor movement and together work to make the Democratic Party into a social-democratic party. In 1958, Shachtman led his group back to the Socialist Party. From the 1960s onward, Shachtman's views turned rightward, away from revolutionary politics of his earlier years. He endorsed the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba and supported the war in Vietnam--even refusing to back George McGovern over Richard Nixon in the election of 1972. Throughout his trajectory from left to right, Shachtman attracted and influenced, personally or through his writings or disciples, a wide variety of individuals, including intellectuals, left political activists and mainstream Democratic Party politicians, and labor leaders, ranging from anti-Stalinist Marxists such as Michael Harrington and Bayard Rustin to neoconservatives such as Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Jeane Kirkpatrick. He also exercised an intellectual influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well as the mainstream labor movement through his young followers (known as "Shachtmanites"), many of whom held positions in unions and civil rights organizations.

Shachtman was born in Warsaw (then part of the Czarist Russian Empire), on September 10, 1903, a child of working class Jews with socialist sympathies. The family emigrated to the United States in 1905. Shachtman grew up in New York City and lived there (mainly in the Bronx) much of his life before moving to a home in Floral Park, a suburb of New York, in 1954. Although he attended New York's City College briefly, he was largely self-educated. A passionate bibliophile, he spoke and wrote fluently in English, German, French, and Yiddish, with some knowledge of Spanish, Russian, and Hebrew as well. He traveled extensively in Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, as well as in the Soviet Union, Turkey, and Mexico -- particularly in the 1930s -- on political business.

Shachtman had three wives. He met his first wife, Wilma "Billie" Rumloff, through his work in the Communist Party, while he lived in Chicago. He left Rumloff for his second wife, Edith Harvey, the former companion of his close friend and fellow Party member, Albert Glotzer, in 1937. He and Harvey had a son -- his only child -- Michael, born in 1939. Shachtman and Harvey split up, and Harvey moved to California with their son in 1951. That same year Shachtman moved to Brooklyn to live with his third wife, Yetta Barsh (1925-1996), to whom he remained married the rest of his life. Barsh, much more politically active than either Rumloff or Harvey, also worked for many years for the United Federation of Teachers, as an assistant its long-time president, Albert Shanker. Shachtman, whose health had begun to deteriorate after a heart attack in 1951, suffered a second heart attack and died on November 4, 1972.

Max Shachtman (1903-1972) was a writer, editor, political theoretician, and a leader (successively) in the communist, Trotskyist, and socialist movements, whose views helped shape the outlook of many progressive and liberal anti-communist intellectuals and labor leaders. His life in politics began when he became interested in Socialist Party politics in high school, with particular sympathy for its left wing. In 1921, he joined the Workers (Communist) Party--the legal, above-ground arm of the Communist Party, and in 1923, at age 19, he moved to Chicago to take over the editorship of the The Young Worker, the magazine of the Party's youth organization. From that point on, he worked full-time as a political operative. Shachtman lived for several years in Chicago, where he honed his political and organizational skills, including his talent as a polemicist, orator, and debater whose speeches were famous for their eloquence, passion, and caustic wit. He rose rapidly to become a national figure in the Party and one of its most promising young leaders, serving as a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee, a delegate to the Fifth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, and to the Seventh Plenum of the Comintern, in Moscow. He also served as the editor of the  Labor Defender (the magazine of the Communist-affiliated International Labor Defense organization). In 1928, however, he was expelled from the Communist Party after adopting Leon Trotsky's dissident views. The following year, he became one of the three principal founders of what became the American Trotskyist movement, organizing -- with James Cannon and Martin Abern -- the Communist League of America.

Shachtman was the first American Trotskyist to meet Leon Trotsky after Trotsky's deportation from the Soviet Union, when he visited the exile's residence on the island of Prinkipo, Turkey, in early 1930. He became a close collaborator with Trotsky, his "commissar for foreign affairs," traveling throughout Europe on his behalf and meeting with members of the Communist opposition movement throughout Europe. He also translated some of Trotsky's major works. He maintained a close relationship with Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, arranging and accompanying them and one of their sons on their secret passage to France. In 1937, he was a member of the group (including painter Frida Kahlo) that greeted Trotsky and Sedova when they arrived at Tampico to take up residence in Mexico, Trotsky's last home. It was Shachtman, too, whom the Workers Party sent to comfort Ms. Sedova after Trotsky's assassination in Mexico City in August 1940. Despite widening political differences between them, he remained friendly with and continued to visit Sedova until the end of her life.

In 1934, the Communist League of America merged with the American Workers Party, another small leftwing opposition group, led by A. J. Muste, to form the Workers Party, and the Workers Party in turn joined the Socialist Party in 1936. In 1937-1938, Shachtman, along with other Trotskyists, was expelled from Socialist Party, and formed the Socialist Workers Party. Shortly after this, however, Shachtman had differences with the SWP's other leadership, and with Trotsky himself, over their view of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and in 1939 he led a splinter group, the Workers Party (renamed the Independent Socialist League in 1949), out of the SWP. During the 1950s, Shachtman developed the political strategy he described as "realignment," which held that U.S. socialists should ally themselves with the leadership of the labor movement and together work to make the Democratic Party into a social-democratic party. In 1958, Shachtman led his group back to the Socialist Party. From the 1960s onward, Shachtman's views turned rightward, away from revolutionary politics of his earlier years. He endorsed the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba and supported the war in Vietnam--even refusing to back George McGovern over Richard Nixon in the election of 1972. Throughout his trajectory from left to right, Shachtman attracted and influenced, personally or through his writings or disciples, a wide variety of individuals, including intellectuals, left political activists and mainstream Democratic Party politicians, and labor leaders, ranging from anti-Stalinist Marxists such as Michael Harrington and Bayard Rustin to neoconservatives such as Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Jeane Kirkpatrick. He also exercised an intellectual influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well as the mainstream labor movement through his young followers (known as "Shachtmanites"), many of whom held positions in unions and civil rights organizations.

Shachtman was born in Warsaw (then part of the Czarist Russian Empire), on September 10, 1903, a child of working class Jews with socialist sympathies. The family emigrated to the United States in 1905. Shachtman grew up in New York City and lived there (mainly in the Bronx) much of his life before moving to a home in Floral Park, a suburb of New York, in 1954. Although he attended New York's City College briefly, he was largely self-educated. A passionate bibliophile, he spoke and wrote fluently in English, German, French, and Yiddish, with some knowledge of Spanish, Russian, and Hebrew as well. He traveled extensively in Europe, including Spain, France, Germany, as well as in the Soviet Union, Turkey, and Mexico -- particularly in the 1930s -- on political business.

Shachtman had three wives. He met his first wife, Wilma "Billie" Rumloff, through his work in the Communist Party, while he lived in Chicago. He left Rumloff for his second wife, Edith Harvey, the former companion of his close friend and fellow Party member, Albert Glotzer, in 1937. He and Harvey had a son -- his only child -- Michael, born in 1939. Shachtman and Harvey split up, and Harvey moved to California with their son in 1951. That same year Shachtman moved to Brooklyn to live with his third wife, Yetta Barsh (1925-1996), to whom he remained married the rest of his life. Barsh, much more politically active than either Rumloff or Harvey, also worked for many years for the United Federation of Teachers, as an assistant its long-time president, Albert Shanker. Shachtman, whose health had begun to deteriorate after a heart attack in 1951, suffered a second heart attack and died on November 4, 1972.

Sources

  1. Peter Drucker, Max Shachtman and His Left: A Socialist's Odyssey through the "American Century" New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1994.

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Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of fourteen color and 206 black and white photographic prints in sizes from 2" x 3" to 8" x 10" and 11" x 14", that range from formal studio portraits to passport photographs and snapshots. Many individuals are identified, but dates of series and in folder titles are mostly approximate, as only a few of the photographs have definite dates, and even these dates, handwritten on the back -- probably by Max Shachtman or Yetta Barsh Shachtman -- may not be completely accurate, as they appear to have been assigned years after the photographs were shot. Notable are photographs of Leon Trotsky and his second wife, Natalia Sedova, and Shachtman with them, including a photograph showing Shachtman and Frida Kahlo greeting the Trotskys on shipboard on their arrival in Mexico, and color snapshots of some of Trotsky's descendants (a grandson and some great-grandchildren), dating from after Max Shachtman's death. Also of note are several images from the 1920s, including group photographs of the younger leaders of the fledgling U.S. Communist Party, as well as photographs of two Central European communists accompanied by dossier-type documents (possibly collected by Shachtman on his first trip to the Soviet Union) with information on their political biographies and affiliations, and a snapshot showing Vladimir Lenin, Nicolai Bukharin, and Gregory Zinoviev conferring. Of particular interest from Shachtman's later years is a snapshot of him with Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas.

Arrangement

Folders are arranged chronologically within each series.

Organized into six series:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Portraits, circa 1906-1960s
  2. Series II: Speaking, 1930s-circa 1950s
  3. Series III: Family, circa 1910s-circa 1960s
  4. Series IV: Max and Yetta Shachtman, Friends and Associates, 1920s-1960s
  5. Series V: Leon Trotsky and Family, Friends, and Associates, 1930-1937; circa 1950s
  6. Series VI: Miscellaneous Historical, 1920s-circa 1950s

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Shachtman, Max, 1903-1972
  • Sedova, Natalia.
  • Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940.
  • Glotzer, Albert, 1908-1999.
  • Shachtman, Yetta Barsh
  • Shachtman, Yetta Barsh

Document Type

  • Black-and-white photographs.
  • Color photographs.

Subject Organizations

  • Socialist Party (U.S.)
  • Workers Party (1940-1949)
  • Communist Party of the United States of America
  • Young Workers League of America
  • Socialist Workers Party
  • Communist League of America (Opposition)

Subject Topics

  • Communism -- United States.
  • Socialism -- United States.

Subject Places

  • Büyükada (Turkey)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials in this collection, created by Max Shachtman, was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Max Shachtman Papers. (Tamiment #103)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Provenance unknown, but we have reason to believe the collection was purchased from Yetta Barsch Shachtman in 1978. The number associated with this accession is 1978.004. An addendum was received from the estate of Yetta Barsch Shachtman in the late 1990s, early 2000s. The numbers possibly associated with this accession are NPA.1999.012, NPA.2006.048, and NPA.2006.058.

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Container List

Series I: Portraits, circa 1906-1960s., 1906-1969

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Max Shachtman: Portraits, Childhood and Youth
circa 1906-1919
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Max Shachtman: Portraits (Includes one passport-type photo that appears to have his autograph.)
1920s
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Max Shachtman: Portraits
1930s
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Max Shachtman: Portraits
1940s
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Max Shachtman: Portraits
Circa 1950s
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Max Shachtman: Portraits
1960s
Box: OS003 Folder : 1 Oversize
undated

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Series II: Speaking, 1930s-circa 1950s., 1930-1959

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Max Shachtman: Speaking (Includes a May 1938 meeting of the Socialist Workers Party about Spain; what is probably the second convention of the SWP, in July 1939 (with James P. Cannon); a 1939 campaign rally supporting Shachtman as the SWP's candidate for Bronx representative to the New York City Council; a 1940 or 1941 outdoor anti-war rally sponsored by the newly-created Workers Party, with placard urging support for "the Third Camp"; contact sheet photos at one meeting (circa 1940s?) showing a representative range of gestures and expressions used by Shachtman.
1930s-circa 1950s

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Series III: Family, circa 1910s-circa 1960s.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Max Shachtman - Family (Includes Shachtman's father, Benjamin; Shachtman's son, Michael, in a color portrait, circa age 8; Shachtman's first and third wives, Wilma "Billie" Ramloff (aka Rumloff) and Yetta Barsh.)
circa 1910s-circa 1960s

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Series IV: Max and Yetta Shachtman, Friends and Associates, 1920s-1960s.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Max Shachtman - Friends and Associates (Includes group photographs with Shachtman and Gil Green, Carl Cowl, Nathan Schaffner, Al Glotzer, (William?) Schneiderman, ? Rizak, Sam Don, John Williamson, Ruth Reynolds, Pat Toohey, and John Harvey; two dossier photographs of Central European Communists, Milan F. Gozkic (Bosnian) and F. J. Mihalec (Czech).)
1920s
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Max Shachtman: Friends and Associates (Includes shots of Pierre Naville; Martin Abern; Maurice Spector; Margaret Connally; William Matheson; Harold Robins, with and without Shachtman; group photographs of Shachtman with Martin Abern, Vincent Ray Dunne, Carl Skoglund, Maurice Spector, and Arne Swabeck (members of National Committee of Communist League of America) in Paris, Vienna, New York and unknown locations; demonstrations by the Workers' Party supporting the Spanish Republic; and two copies of same photograph of Shachtman with Jan van Heijenoort, Leon Trotsky's secretary, on July 13, 1933, in Prinkipo--aka Büyükada--Turkey: one inscribed by Shachtman to his parents, the other to his wife, Wilma--both signed.)
1930s
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Max Shachtman: Friends and Associates (Includes Bob Armstrong; Al Glotzer; Maggie Glotzer; Max Kafkalov; in Akron, OH, New York, Paris.)
1940s
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Max Shachtman: Friends and Associates (Unidentified)
1950s
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Max Shachtman: Friends and Associates (Includes Al Glotzer; Jock Horton and Millie Horton, in London; snapshots of Shachtman and Sam Friedman (?) at Socialist Party meeting, and of Shachtman and Norman Thomas; Shachtman with Ester Wells, Maggie Glotzer, Yetta Shachtman; a young couple posed in front of a sign that reads, "Greetings, Comrade Shachtman--Young Peoples' Socialist League.")
1960s
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Yetta Barsh Shachtman - Friends and Associates (Includes Yetta Barsh; Nathan Gould, Barsh's first husband; Tom Kahn; Maggie Horton; Yetta Barsh and Al Shanker; Jock Horton; Carl Horton; Alice Pryscun; Richard Valcourt; Deborah Valcourt; Shirley Panken (sp?); Suzi Weissman; Mark Sharon (aka Max Sterling); Al Glotzer; Marge Louis (Lewis?); Otavio Moctazuma; Vsevolod (Seva) Platonovich Volkov--one of Leon Trotsky's grandchildren--and Patti Volkov Fernández, Seva Volkov's daughter. Locations include London, Israel, Mexico, and New York City.)
1943-1996

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Series V: Leon Trotsky and Family, Friends, and Associates, 1930-1937.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Leon Trotsky and Family, Friends, and Associates (Includes Max Shachtman and Gerald Rosenthal with Trotsky, and Natalia Sedova, Trotsky's second wife, and Trotsky, in Prinkipo, aka Büyükada, Turkey, in 1930; Shachtman and Frida Kahlo greeting Trotsky and Sedova on board the S.S. Ruth, on their arrival in Tampico, Mexico, January 1937; Diego Rivera with Trotsky during the Dewey Commission hearing held in Mexico in April 1937; Max Shachtman and Natalie Sedova circa 1950s; photocopies of a portrait of Trotsky's eldest son, Lyvov Sedov, and a newspaper/magazine story about the Dewey Commission hearing, April 1937, with photos including Trotsky in attendance.)
1930-1937; 1950s

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Series VI: Miscellaneous Historical, 1920s-circa 1950s.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Miscellaneous Historical (Includes informal snapshot showing an interior with Vladimir Lenin, Nicolai Bukharin, and Gregory Zinoviev standing and conferring, in Moscow, 1922 or 1923, with Paul Levi seated to their left; Christian Rakovsky; reproduction of pencil drawing of Lenin, dated May 1920; a small photograph of Trotsky's grave, and another that is probably of the exterior of his house in Coyoacan, Mexico City; a third small photograph is of three men, with captions in Czech.)
1920s-circa 1950s

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