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Guide to the Michael Harrington Papers TAM.209

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY, 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive

Collection processed by Peter Filardo

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on April 26, 2016
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Edited by Maggie Schreiner to reflect updated administrative information, 2014. Updated by Giana Ricci to reflect addition of audiovisual material found in repository.  , April 2016

Historical/Biographical Note

Michael Harrington (1928-1989), a U.S. socialist writer and political leader, best known as the author of The Other America: Poverty in the United States(1962), and as the founder and leader of Democratic Socialists of America, the U.S. affiliate to the Socialist International, was born in St. Louis, received a Jesuit secondary education, graduated from Holy Cross College in 1947 and, after a brief interval at Yale Law School, received a MA degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1949, then moved to New York City.

From 1951-53 he was a volunteer at the radical Catholic Worker house on New York's Lower East Side, and was associate editor of its newspaper, also called the Catholic Worker. Leaving Catholicism, he first became organizational director of the Workers Defense League in 1953, joined the Socialist Party, and shortly became the leader of the SP's Young People's Socialist League. Coming under the influence of the (not quite yet) post-Trotskyist Max Shachtman, whose anti-Communism and grand political strategy, known as realignment (i.e., seeking to employ a leftist-influenced organized labor movement as the leading force in reorienting the Democratic Party towards socialism) became and remained in one form or another the cornerstones of Harrington's political outlook, Harrington led the New York YPSL into Shachtman's Independent Socialist League in 1954, and served as YPSL national chair until the 1958 dissolution of the ISL and its members' return to the Socialist Party, and from 1960-62 edited  New America, the SP paper.

From 1954 through 1962, Harrington worked as a researcher for the Fund for the Republic, notably on its study of blacklisting in the film industry, and wrote for liberal and left journals of opinion such as Dissent. A 1957  Commentaryarticle on poverty grew into  The Other America, which made Harrington a national figure, and which was widely credited with influencing the development of the so-called War on Poverty and related local programs during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. The  Port Huron Statement, also published in 1962 by the Students for a Democratic Society, originally a project of the SP-associated League for Industrial Democracy, for whom Harrington served as liaison to SDS (he would become LID head in 1964), was sharply criticized by Harrington for being insufficiently anti-Communist. This marked the beginning of a decade of often sharp disagreement with the New Left, most importantly on the related issue of the Vietnam War. While Harrington's Realignment Caucus within the SP (he was elected SP chair in 1968) opposed the war, it did not support unconditional withdrawal. In 1971 Harrington formed the Coalition Caucus, which backed the 1972 presidential candidacy of George McGovern in opposition to the pro-war SP majority, then left the SP to found (in February 1973) the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, which merged, in 1982, with the New American Movement, an organization of New Left veterans, to form the Democratic Socialists of America.

In 1972 Harrington became a professor of political science at Queens College in New York City, played a leading role during the 1980s in the drafting of the Socialist International's New Declaration of Principles, and continued to write, lecture and travel widely until his death from cancer in 1989. Among his many books were two autobiographical works, Taking Sides: The Education of a Militant Mind(1985) and  The Long-Distance Runner : An Autobiography(1987),  The New American Poverty(1984),  The Politics at God's Funeral: The Spiritual Crisis of Western Civilization(1985), and  Socialism : Past and Future(1989). See also the selected bibliography, below, preceding the box and folder list.

Selected Bibliography

1959:  Labor in a Free Society(Berkeley, University of California Press), 186 p.

1960:  Democracy and Public Review : An Analysis of the UAW Public Review Board/ by Jack Stieber, Walter E. Obrerer, Michael Harrington (Santa Barbara, CA : Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions), 64 p.

1962:  The Other America: Poverty in the United States(New York, Macmillan), 191 p.

1962:  The Retail Clerks(New York, Wiley), 99 p.

1965:  The Accidental Century(New York : Macmillan), 322 p.

1967:  American Power in the Twentieth Century(New York : League for Industrial Democracy), 55 p.

1968:  Toward a Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority(New York, Macmillan), 314 p.

1972:  Socialism(New York, Saturday Review Press), 436 p.

1972:  The Seventies : Problems and Proposals/ edited by Irving Howe and Michael Harrington (New York : Harper & Row), 519 p.

1973:  Fragments of the Century(New York, Saturday Review Press), 246 p.

1976:  The Twilight of Capitalism(New York : Simon and Schuster), 446 p.

1977:  The Vast Majority: A Journey to the World's Poor(New York : Simon and Schuster), 281 p.

1980:  Decade of Decision : The Crisis of the American System(New York : Simon and Schuster), 354 p.

1981:  The Next America : The Decline and Rise of the United States(New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 154 p.

1981:  Unfinished Democracy : The American Political System/ Harrell R. Rodgers, Jr., Michael Harrington (Glenview, Ill. : Scott, Foresman, 1981), 625 p.

1984:  The New American Poverty(New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 271 p.

1985:  The Politics at God's Funeral : The Spiritual Crisis of Western Civilization(New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin Books), 308 p.

1985:  Taking Sides : The Education of a Militant Mind(New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), 278 p.

1987:  The Next Left : The History of a Future(New York : H. Holt), 197 p.

1988:  The Long-Distance Runner : An Autobiography(New York : Holt), 260 p.

1989:  Socialism : Past and Future(New York : Arcade), 320 p.

See also: Isserman, Maurice,  The Other American : The Life of Michael Harrington(New York : Public Affairs, 2000), 449 p.