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New International, January 1949



H.D. Coleman

On Mills’ Book


From The New International, Vol. XV No. 1 (Whole No. 131), January 1949, p. 31.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



Ben Hall, in his review of C. Wright Mills’ The New Men of Power, seems to me to be guilty of some of the sins he accuses Mills of. I agree entirely with Hall’s estimate of the great value and importance of Mills’ book. I object specifically to the following statements in Hall’s review:

“But Mills outlining his own program, and we must add, sketching the purported program of the ‘far left’ (Trotskyists), succeeds only in creating a bizarre fog. This latter part of his work is of interest mainly as a curiosity which can be overlooked without detracting from the unquestionable importance of the book.”

“An early definition fixes the ‘far left’ as the ‘two Trotskyists groups’ but the less said about Mills’ exposition of the purported ‘left’ program the better. Readers of The New International can judge the expert character of his detailed description of the far-left program by the following single sentence: ‘The American left focuses its political attention more on domestic politics than on foreign affairs.’ He does not in fact present and analyze the program of the genuine American left with the same care and objectivity as the rest of his material. We cannot and do not, of course, expect Mills to advocate our program, but we can expect that before recounting it at length and with apparent authority, he acquaint himself with it and present it objectively.”

In the first place, as any careful reader of the book cannot fail to see, the program that Mills presents under the heading The Program of the Left, in the chapter Alternatives, is not put forward as the specific program of what Mills calls “the far left.” The “left” that Mills refers to is quite clearly an amalgamation of what Mills calls the “far left,” the “independent left,” and elements such as the Socialist Party which Mills does not specifically place in any of his categories. As a general statement of the viewpoint of this broad left wing, Mills’ summary is certainly accurate. Halls’ slightly pompous assumption (“We cannot and do not, of course, expect ...”) that Mills is thinking only of the Workers Party has no basis in fact, as far as I can see.

Nor can I understand the note of indignation with which Hall calls attention to Mills’ statement that “The American left focuses its political attention more on domestic politics than on foreign affairs.” This is undoubtedly accurate with respect to the broad left wing that Mills has in mind. And even with respect to the Workers Party, has this not been the constant tendency in recent years - to place a greater emphasis on domestic politics? This has been, indeed, the most notable symptom of WP’s development away from sectarian isolationism. If an outsider like Mills should mistakenly believe that the WP has developed further in this direction than is actually the case, would not grateful silence be a more appropriate reaction than indignation?

I have never yet encountered a “bizarre fog”; and I have seldom encountered a more bizarre and intemperate dismissal to political oblivion than Hall’s remark that “This latter part of his work,” that is, on the program of the left, “is of interest mainly as a curiosity ...” on the contrary, Mills’ discussion of program in the chapter Alternatives is an excellent summary of a socialist program for America, bearing in mind the limitations imposed by the kind of book Mills was writing. Mills’ program for an independent labor party does not differ in any important respect from the proposals advanced by the WP; but the WP could learn a good deal from the way Mills presents some of his ideas.

Comrade Hall speaks of the “genuine American left” with a somewhat proprietary air, for which I cannot imagine the justification. Let’s just say that any of us would be a bit presumptuous to claim to be the one and only “genuine American left” at this particular time.

H.D. Coleman

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