A Moral Marxist: Staughton Lynd

By Julie Stout

Staughton Lynd had been looking forward to holding Luke Stewart’s book in his hands as his last publication.  At the very end of his life, after a remarkable career in law, it is for our benefit that Lynd’s attention would be turned by Luke Stewart towards the antiwar movement of the 1960’s where Lynd made a mark.  Luke Stewart did an extensive amount of research into FBI and CIA documents to show us how, while Staughton Lynd was organizing against the Vietnam War, the US government regarded him as a threat, listed him as a person to be imprisoned in case of a national emergency and intervened to prevent him from obtaining full time employment as a history professor.  Not only does this book read like a riveting personal history and snapshot of the life of an activist, it offers warnings and advice for radical peacemakers today.

Luke Stewart covers a period of time from 1964 when Staughton Lynd was a professor of American history at Yale University and takes us through the fall of 1968 when, blacklisted from the academy, he found himself in Chicago with his wife, Alice, and three kids unable to secure employment as an historian. The radical student and antiwar movement was moving in a new, violent direction, and Lynd found himself spiritually on the outs. I believe that Staughton intended that this book should be a guide for radical peacemakers today, just as Labor Law for the Rank and Filer is for union organizers, on how to navigate the pitfalls of whatever this era we find ourselves in as Marxists who engage in American politics. He did not find it easy. Neither shall we.

Staughton was a great teacher. These past eight months as I’ve mourned his death, I am acutely aware of the lack of leadership from moral Marxist intellectuals on the American horizon. I’m not able to call him up for help or ask him for advice anymore. America today needs intellectuals with moral courage who will link arms with the working class and build grassroots movements.  I want every adjunct professor in the country to read this book, unionize, and build a radical Marxism for the 21st century that is in the schools and in the streets.  Probably get a copy of Labor Law for the Rank and Filer, too. 

My Country is the World is available at Haymarket Books. https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1956-my-country-is-the-world

Labor Law for the Rank and Filer is available at PM Press.  https://pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=325

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