Public Comment

Open Letter to Those Who Knew Irwin Silber:

By R.G. Davis
Monday September 13, 2010 - 08:22:00 PM

I read the obituary on Silber in the NY Times and its limited focus on Sing Out! It mentioned he was in the Communist Party and left it, but didn't discuss his editorship of the National Guardian and creation of the Guardian Clubs that later turned into Front Line clubs. The most interesting part would be to hear from people who were in Front Line to explain what they meant by a pre- Party Organization. There were similar attempts like the Committees of Correspondence to form a party that was not in the same mode as the CPUSA or the SWP, October League, RU, et al--a non-party party?  

It would be helpful to recount some of that history, to explain what people were doing in the 80s and 90s. 

I knew of the National Guardian (NY City) before going to the big hippy meeting in Vermont to hear guru Baba Ram Dass in the 70s. A hundred from the West Coast traveled on an airplane rented by a wealthy hipster/rock promoter to meet the guru. Silber showed up one day, as I remember, in spanking white shorts, white sneakers, shirt and hat ready to play TENNIS. I loved him at first sight. A few others gathered around him at lunch listening to him chat about Marxist politics and theory. Then we went to a few sessions with Ram Dass with bells and chants. It was a unique event. 

Later I was invited to go on a Guardian tour to China with 25 others, organized by Harold Leventhal, yet another old CPer who was agent for Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Arlo Guthrie (the family) for many years. He later put together a concert with Pete and Arlo, attracting the 80 year olds and the 8 year olds. Leventhal was good, and better than Bill ‘Big Bucks’ Graham. 

So where did Front Line go? 

I came a cropper with them in a solidarity organization, Friends of Nicaragua, but that’s an old tale. Silber organized Front Line, it was active for a while, but what was the line? Anyone able and want to fill in – please do. (If the Editor will so allow). 

This would be what Irwin Silber was good at, explaining how opposition to capitalism functions.