Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

MAX EASTMAN IN 1941

MAX EASTMAN, during the year just past, has published two remarkable books: Stalin's Russia and The Crisis in Socialism and Marxism: Is It Science? There is perhaps no contemporary figure whose importance is so difficult to estimate.

From 1913 to 1922, as editor of Masses and the Liberator, Max Eastman was one of the dominant figures of the intellectual life of New York. After 1922, his reputation was in relative eclipse. In that year he went to Europe and remained there for five years. In the course of a sojourn in Russia, he became identified with the Trotskyist side of the Stalin-Trotsky split; and as a result, he was subjected after his return to a systematic vilification and boycott which was continued through the thirties when so many of the intelligentsia fell under the influence of the Stalinists. Today he is emerging again, and it is time some attempt was made to appreciate his real role and stature.

It is not the purpose of this article, however, to attempt a complete account of his career. In order to do that, it would be necessary to write a good deal of history, political and journalistic, and to trace his extensive influence through the channels of his personal relations. For four years an instructor in Philosophy at Columbia, he continued to figure as a teacher even after he became editor of the Masses. He is one of those

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