Main ISR Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialist Review, Summer 1960


Richard Garza

A Changing City


From International Socialist Review, Vol.21 No.3, Summer 1960, p.94.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Newcomers
by Oscar Handlin
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1960. 164 pp. $4.00.

The author opens with a history of the peoples who came to New York City. He describes some of the problems they faced in adjusting to their new environment, and develops the theme that newcomers have always had problems, that the problems might vary a little with the national group; but that all groups overcame them to one degree or another and adjusted to life in New York City.

Handlin then turns to the last two waves of immigrants who came to New York: The Negroes and the Puerto Ricans. He notes that their total number in the metropolitan area is two million and will continue to grow in the forseeable future. He sketches the problems that caused them to risk the uncertainties of the metropolis. However his remark, “Puerto Rico’s central problem since its annexation to the United States has been overpopulation,” accepting the current fad which reduces the effects of imperialism to overpopulation, should warn the reader of the limits of his examination. He ends the thought with, “Efforts at induced industrialization and at birth control showed encouraging signs of progress, particularly after ... 1940, but they did not provide the means for utilizing or liquidating the surplus.”

The Negroes and Puerto Ricans face the same problems as all newcomers but in addition, the factor of color. Also the city has altered considerably since the last wave of immigration.

Handlin contends that ethnic antagonisms increased during the time jobs were scarce but that since 1939 and 1945 the antagonisms have abated due to a shortage of skilled labor.

Without going into the source of prejudice he deals with its manifestations and describes the vicious circle that confronts an oppressed minority.

The author claims,

“In the past, New York benefited greatly from the presence of such laborers; but the city and the immigrants paid the cost in a debilitating social disorder. Recovery from the disorder came from the capacity to expand and from the freedom with which the newcomers could rise to opportunites created by the expansion.”

From this observation he goes on to conclude that by showing “the will and energy, and their neighbors the tolerance,” the newcomers will contribute as much as their predecessors.

Handlin does not examine the probability that the road to progress will be barred by a new depression. This failure can be explained by the fact that the work, the third in a series of a project devoted to an examination of the major problems confronting the tri-state New York region, proceeds from the premise that the fundamental social relations will always remain the same.

The last pages, pointing to the growing political awareness on the part of the Negro and Puerto Rican people, are instructive; but the book as a whole is of limited value.

Top of page

Main ISR Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on: 5 May 2009