The Platypus Review has just posted a fascinating new article by Janet Biehl, excerpted from her forthcoming biography of Murray Bookchin, titled “Bookchin’s Trotskyist Decade, 1939-1948.” The piece offers a highly engaging review of Bookchin’s early years as a labor militant, beginning with his disavowal of Stalinism at age 18. As a young revolutionary during and after World War 2, Bookchin was drawn to the Socialist Workers Party as a potential carrier of the revolutionary flame in a time of war and capitalist consolidation. He worked in New Jersey’s iron foundries and Manhattan’s West Side auto plants, trying to recruit workers to the SWP while immersing himself in the fiery political debates of that era.
The article draws on Biehl’s extended interviews with Bookchin during his later years, together with a wealth of historical research. Readers get a unique inside view of the struggles, disappointments, and occasional triumphs of this highly contested time for the US left. Through Murray’s eyes, the battles and organizational splits of this period take on a new life, as the labor movement reached its apparent apex and rapidly declined, while militants struggled to pick up the pieces and look for new ways to “rethink the socialist project.” It’s a compelling and beautifully drawn story, of great interest to readers of social ecology and US radical history.