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Guide to the Max Shachtman Papers TAM.103

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Claudia Hommel

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 08, 2018
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The Max Shachtman Papers, like the man himself, encompasses a multi-faceted and fascinating view of the 20th century socialist and communist movements. This extensive collection includes correspondence, manuscripts and notes, internal documents and bulletins, clippings and ephemera. Dozens of countries and regions are covered and virtually the entire political spectrum on the Left is documented from 1917 to the late 1960's. The perspective is at once personal, organizational, and intellectual, reflecting the many roles which Shachtman was to play throughout his life: Activist, advisor, historian, journalist, friend, comrade, and polemicist. The Papers comprise working files that Shachtman kept in drawers of correspondence, boxes of bulletins, a trunk full of notes for his never completed History of the Communist International, and wrapped folders of organizational papers.

The papers are arranged in seven series (described below): I. Groups With Which Shachtman Was Affiliated (microfilmed); II. Research Notes for The History of the Communist International (not microfilmed); III. Correspondence (microfilmed); IV. Writings and Topical Files (only subseries IV-D has been microfilmed); V. International Bulletins, Periodicals and Other Documents (microfilmed); VI. Addendum (not microfilmed). VII. Addendum 2 (unprocessed)

Additional information and references can be found in the following three linked Appendices:

Appendix Aincludes a partial index to names and subjects, contains references for individuals which may be to correspondence, and/or to writings by or about that individual.

Appendix Bincludes a partial index to pseudonyms that may appear in the Shachtman Papers.

Appendix Cincludes a partial index to abbreviations that may appear in the Shachtman Papers.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Groups with which Shachtman was Affiliated; documents Shachtman's political odyssey as seen through the records of each group to which he belonged: the early American Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Workers Party, the Independent Socialist League, and the Socialist Party. Series I thus provides the needed chronology, vocabulary, and structure for understanding the remainder of the Collection. The records document the leadership activities of each group, and, of special interest, American relations with Trotsky and the world Trotskyist movement from 1928 40. While many of the group documents have been published elsewhere, others are quite rare or appear here in original drafts and hand scripts.

Series I. is organized into ten subseries:

Missing Title

  1. A. The Communist International and the Soviet Union (1922-30)
  2. B. The American Communist Party (Workers Party of America) (1924-28)
  3. C. Leon Trotsky (1927-40; 1907, 1923, 1962): Writings (in Russian), Correspondence, Manuscripts, Notes and Articles on Trotsky (Dewey Commission, attempts to obtain permanent residence, assassination)
  4. D. The International Left Opposition and Fourth International (1927-50): Official bodies of the International Sections of the International (by country or region other than the United States), Individuals
  5. E. American left wing opposition: Communist League of America (1929-37)
  6. F. Workers Party U.S. (Trotskyist) and entry into Socialist Party (1934-37)
  7. G. Socialist Workers Party (includes debates with Shachtman tendency), (1934-40)
  8. H. Workers Party (including unity talks with SWP, C.L.R. James, and Raya Dunayevskaya), (1940-50)
  9. I. Independent Socialist League (1949-58)
  10. J. Socialist Party (Social Democratic Federation, Democratic Socialists, Young People's Socialist League, Michael Farrington, Norman Thomas; debated issues of Cuba, Vietnam, strategies for the 60's) (1958-72).

Series II. Research Notes for  The History of the Communist International; which has not been microfilmed, is devoted to Shachtman's research materials for a history of the Communist International, which he never completed, and is organized into four subseries:

Missing Title

  1. A. By country or region
  2. B. By topic
  3. C. By name of author (reprints from American Slavic and East European Review)
  4. D. Alleged materials of the Politburo (translated and evaluated by Loventhal)

Most of his notes are derived from published sources (many of which were part of his library). Citations include unusual bibliographic sources, translations from Polish, Russian, and Scandinavian language sources, personal accounts and data recollected by former participants in the Communist International. The coverage is extensive, taking in dozens of countries, political formations, and individuals. Included are handwritten notes and some clippings, articles, translated abstracts, and correspondence, giving bibliographic citations and data on the Communist International and Communist parties world wide.

Series III. Correspondence (bulk 1950s-1960s), which has been microfilmed, comprises individual correspondence, generally non official and personal, but often related to the subjects of Series I and II, and is organized into four subseries:

Missing Title

  1. A. Individuals
  2. B. Countries (including nationals in exile)
  3. C. Topics
  4. D. Publishers.

Correspondents include individual comrades and co-thinkers, friends and acquaintances in academia, publishing, and socialist groups. Some of the more significant correspondents include: Norman Thomas eliciting Shachtman's viewpoint on Leninism; Michael Harrington on the radical movement of the 1960's; Natalia Sedova Trotsky on the affairs of Trotsky's estate and on her political evolution; Erich From and A.J. Muste on the regrouping of socialists in the late 1950's; young colleagues in the ISL and Socialist Party; and international correspondents discussing changes within the world socialist movement.

Other notable correspondents include: Farrell Dobbs, Hal Draper, Raya Dunayevskaya, James T. Farrell, Ruth Fischer, Pierre Frank, Al Glotzer, Darlington Hoopes, Irving Howe, Sara Jacobs (companion to Natalia Sedova Trotsky), Julius Jacobson, Isaac Don Levine, Tom Kahn, Ernest Rice McKinney, David McReynolds, Max Nomad, Leon Sedov, Ignazio Silone, Don Slaiman, Boris Souvarine, Irwin Suall, Thomas Stamm, Esteban Volkov, Stanley Weir, B.J. Widick, Karl A. Wittfogel, and Bertram Wolfe.

Series IV. Writings and Topical Files; covers a potpourri of topical interests. Here are portions of Shachtman's manuscripts, manuscripts by others, articles and clippings which interested him (though not having the same cohesion as his research notes and clippings in Series II). Of special note are a few of the unpublished manuscripts by other authors. Alfred Rosmer's memoirs of John Reed, an outstanding example, does not appear to have been published.

Series IV is organized into five subseries, of which only subseries D: Max Shachtman Manuscripts and Other notes has been microfilmed:

Missing Title

  1. A. Political Affairs, International (by countries or regions, topics)
  2. B. Political Affairs, United States (groups, topics, individuals)
  3. C. Manuscripts by others
  4. D. Max Shachtman manuscripts and notes
  5. E. Clippings, articles about Max Shachtman.

Series V. International Bulletins, Periodicals and other Documents; is essentially an appendix of internal publications and leaflets relating to the activities of Series I, particularly prior to 1948. These materials, prepared and circulated within each political group, are often quite rare and fragile. An invaluable collection of German leaflets traces the debate between the Nazis, the Communist Party, the Social Democrats, and the German Trotskyists in a section entitled "Hitler's Rise to Power, 1931 32." The propaganda war was deadly serious and graphic in every sense of the word. Cartoons and lithographs form the last part of Series V.

Series V is organized into five subseries, and has been microfilmed:

Missing Title

  1. A. Left Opposition bulletins (other than United States) (1930-62)
  2. B. Internal bulletins of U.S.A. groups (1933-67)
  3. C. Periodicals of the Left Opposition (1928-62)
  4. D. Hitler's Rise to Power (1931-33) (statements and periodicals)
  5. E. Graphic Materials; "missing pages."


Folders are generally arranged alphabetically.

The papers are arranged in five series:

Missing Title

  1. I. Groups with which Shachtman was affiliated
  2. II. Research notes for The History of the Communist International
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Writings and Topical Files
  5. V. International Bulletins, Periodicals and other Documents.
  6. VI. Addendum
  7. VII. Addendum 2 (unprocessed)