HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » Editorials & Other Articles (Forum) » Remembering Michael Harri...

Fri Jul 31, 2015, 09:25 AM

Remembering Michael Harrington: The vision of the democratic socialist leader remains a heroic one.


(In These Times) In a lifetime of political engagement, Michael Harrington must have given ten thousand speeches, and of those, probably a thousand in New York City, where he had made his home since his arrival in 1949, age 21. He gave his final speech in the city 40 years later, in May 1989. Suffering from the cancer of the esophagus that would end his life in less than three months, he spoke that day to reporters and editors from the city’s union press.

Dinah Leventhal, a 22-year-old activist, was in attendance. She was about to take on the job of youth organizer for Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the socialist group that Harrington helped found and led, and welcomed the chance to speak with him for a few minutes afterward. Mike reminisced about his own days as a young socialist organizer in the 1950s. “He said,” she recalled, that “he had felt an incredible degree of freedom and learned so much in those years”

He said I should make the most of it, being an organizer and traveling around, getting to see the country and getting to know what the country was all about. He really loved this country, and thought that you had to love the country to be a radical, to be a socialist, and to want to change it.


Over the years, Mike met and worked with many important and famous people, including Dr. Martin Luther King, United Auto Worker president Walter Reuther, Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, and Prime Minister Olof Palme, leader of Sweden’s ruling Socialist Party, to name but a few. The publication in 1962 of his landmark study of poverty, The Other America, helped spark the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty. He had another best-seller in 1972 with the unlikely title of Socialism, which sold over 100,000 copies in paperback and influenced many readers with its argument that the “real Karl Marx” was a radical democrat, not a would-be dictator. His last book, Socialism: Past and Future, came out shortly before his death. He was an editor of Dissent, a commentator on National Public Radio, a frequent contributor to leading opinion magazines like the Nation and the New Republic. As a public intellectual and a moral tribune, in the 1970s and 1980s, he had few equals on the left, or indeed across the political spectrum. Harrington, Senator Ted Kennedy would write, “has made more Americans more uncomfortable for more good reasons than any other person I know.”

Perhaps Mike’s greatest political impact was on several generations of young radicals coming of age between the 1950s and the 1980s. He spoke before all kinds of audiences, in churches and union halls, and won applause from listeners who had probably never heard a socialist before. But he was most in his element when speaking on college and university campuses. He liked young people; he knew how they thought; he could reach and inspire them. He was, he liked to joke as the decades turned and his hair grew grayer and then white, the nation’s “oldest young socialist” and “a closet youth.” ...........(more)

http://inthesetimes.com/article/17741/michael_harrington



0 replies, 480 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Reply to this thread