Hal Draper

Hal Draper/ Drawing by Marcelo Guimarães Lima


Entry from the “Dictionary of Marxism in America”

Life and political praxis

Son of ethnic Ukrainian immigrants from the Russian Empire, Harold Dubinsky (1914-1990), later known as Hal Draper, was born and raised in the New York district of Brooklyn, having attended high school at the boys' school Boys High School. Her father, Samuel Dubinsky, was a manager at a shirt factory. Her mother, Annie Kornblatt Dubinsky, kept a candy store, through which she supported her family after her husband's death when Hal Draper was just ten years old.

Hal Draper was the younger brother of Theodore Draper (1912-2006), who would become a historian of the American communist movement; her other siblings were Dorothy Rabkin and Robert Draper. The adoption of the surname “Draper”, sounding Anglo-Saxon, was his mother's idea, aiming to protect her children from prejudice, since “Dubinsky” denoted an Eastern European origin.

In 1934, he graduated from Brooklyn College. Involved in politics since his adolescence, that same year he became a member of Young People's Socialist League [Socialist People's Youth League] (YPSL) – the youth of Socialist Party of America [Socialist Party of America] (SPA) –, becoming a soldier against fascism, wars and unemployment, and moving closer to Trotskyism.

At a young age, Hal Draper married Anne Kracik Draper (1917-1973), a Marxist and trade unionist involved in the struggles for women's emancipation. Together, they worked for decades in Trotskyist organizations.

Living in New York, during the 1930s he also served as assistant editor of the Trotskyist newspaper Socialist Appeal [Socialist Call], taught in high schools in the city and, through YPSL, participated in student uprisings – which occurred in the context of the Great Depression (1929-1939).

In 1937, as one of the main leaders of the YPSL, Hal Draper criticized the “Stalinization” of the Communist International – the Third International (1919-1943) – and, after the entry of Trotskyist militants into the SPA, voted in favor of the formation of the Fourth International (1938). With this decision, supported by the majority of the party, the remaining members either left or were expelled.

In 1938, Hal Draper broke with the SPA, joining the Socialist Workers Party [Socialist Workers' Party] (SWP) – party of which he was national secretary of Youth, member of the first National Executive and secretary of National Education Department [National Department of Education].

Shortly later, Hal Draper was against the split in the SWP (1940), a split motivated by the so-called “Russian” or “Soviet” question (the controversy surrounding unconditional support or critical opposition to the Soviet Union), and by the bureaucratic and party hierarchy defended by James Cannon (then leader of the SWP). That same year, Hal Draper left the SWP and helped found the Worker's Party [Workers' Party] (WP) – which would be led by Max Shachtman. This party – which did not support the Soviet Union, considering it a “bureaucratic-collectivist” society – defended a socialist model that was intended to be more “democratic”, which was summarized in the motto: “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but for a third camp of independent socialism!” – origin of the current Third Camp Socialism [Third Field of Socialism]. In opposition to James Cannon's conception of the party, the WP tried to develop a less hierarchical internal culture, with space for internal debates and without repression of dissent.

In 1942, Hal Draper, after organizing WP political chapters in Eastern Massachusetts and Philadelphia (between 1941 and 1942), moved to Los Angeles, where he would also organize party chapters. There, together with his wife, he worked in the district of San Pedro, as a worker in shipyards, and participated in anti-fascist and anti-racist campaigns. After World War II (1939-1945), he returned to New York, where he began editing the The New International [ The New International], a Marxist magazine first run by the SWP (between 1934 and 1940) and then by the WP (between 1940 and 1958).

In 1949, weakened, the WP chose to leave its status as a “party”, being renamed Independent Socialist League [Independent Socialist League] (ISL). During the 1950s, Hal Draper also took on the role of editor of the organization's newspaper – the Labor Action [Labor action] – until the split of 1958, when one of its wings, of which he was in opposition, migrated to the SPA, dismantling the ISL.

In 1958, Hal Draper had health problems, which required him to live in a place with a milder climate. After traveling through Europe with his companion Anne, he moved to Oakland, California. In 1960, the couple settled in nearby Berkeley. In this city, Hal Draper returned to academia, obtaining his master's degree in Library Science from University of California (UCLA), an institution where he also worked as a librarian.

In 1961, he founded and was a member of the Editorial Board of New Politics [New Policy], a periodical based in New York and linked to the movement of Third Field of Socialism. Later this year, he wrote a work of science fiction: Ms Fnd in a lbry: or, the day civilization collapsed [“Mrs. Fnd in a bbltc: or the day civilization collapsed”] (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1961) – short story in which he satirizes the “information age”. At this time, together with the socialist Joel Geier, he also organized the Independent Socialist Clubs [Independent Socialist Clubs] (ISC), dedicated to preserving the third-camp revolutionary tradition; These clubs would serve as a political base for many American socialist activists in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

During the 1960s, Hal Draper was one of the mentors of Free Speech Movement [Freedom of Expression Movement] (1964-1965), Berkeley; of California Peace and Freedom Party [California Peace and Freedom Party] (PFP-California); the opposition movement to the Vietnam War (1955-1975); and other left-wing organizations that were precursors of New Left [New Left] (political movement dedicated to new demands for civil and political rights), in the United States.

This collaboration with the Free Speech Movement Berkeley deserves special attention in his political biography, as the historical experience of the movement, of which he was a chronicler, served as raw material for his reflections and research – carried out independently – on Marxist political practice and theory, which he dedicated himself from the 1960s onwards. O Free Speech Movement It was a student movement, operating especially in universities, in the context of the struggles for civil rights in the USA (1960s). In the specific case of UCLA's Berkeley campus, students questioned the bureaucratic, hierarchical and industrial educational model, and the content of the subjects, which they considered as a “wasteland” (“wasteland”) moral and intellectual.

They also expressed opposition to the conservatism and elitism of the California government, as well as American foreign policy. To restore political order on campus, the University of California president imposed draconian legislation against student activism. Then, students, led by Mario Savio and Jack Weinberg, responded to that legislation through a rebellion, beginning in the fall of 1964, calling for protests, occupations and a strike – which would put heavy pressure on campus administration and university authorities – , in addition to defying the state government (which would send 500 police officers to repress the movement, arresting 782 protesters).

The rebellion inspired students across the country, becoming a model for national student politics in the 1960s and 1970s. Hal Draper supported the student uprising – an episode he recounted in Berkeley: the new student revolt [Berkeley: the new student rebellion] (1965), a work written in the heat of the moment – ​​and was then recognized as a “friend of students” and “mis-educator” of the masses for instigating young people to political activism and against the status quo. On the same theme, in 1968, in co-authorship with his wife Anne, Hal Draper published the book The dirt on California: agribusiness and the university [Dirt in California: agribusiness and the university].

In 1969, Hal Draper edited and published the entries by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in New American Cyclopædia [New American Encyclopedia]. That same year, the socialist clubs (ISC) were renamed International Socialists [International Socialists] – and he was in charge of creating and managing the organization’s printing press.

However, within the scope of debates on union politics and party organization, new dissent soon emerged. Thus, accompanied by some activists from Berkeley, Hal Draper two years later broke with the International Socialists, accusing the organization of having become a “cult”. From then on, he became an independent socialist activist, with no organic link to any organization, tendency or party current. Still in 1971, he translated and published texts by Marx and Engels about the Paris Commune: Writings on the Paris Commune [Writings on the Paris Commune] (1971).

Shortly afterwards, in 1973, his companion Anne Draper died prematurely; She, like her husband, during the 1940s had worked in naval shipyards (as a welder), suffering severe exposure to asbestos.

In the 1970s, Hal Draper, after retiring from UCLA (where, in addition to being a librarian, he was also a bibliographer), he began to dedicate himself to researching and publishing essays on Marxism, a theoretical task that he considered essential for political reorientation. of socialists in the United States – as he judged their organizations to be confused and sectarian, both in relation to theory as for practice political and partisan.

It was at this time that he produced his greatest work, gaining prominence as a student of Marx's thought: Karl Marx's theory of revolution [Karl Marx's theory of revolution], a book published in four volumes (between 1977 and 1990), in addition to a posthumous volume, products of his historical archaeological research in the collection Marx-Engels Work [Works of Marx and Engels] (MEW), as well as in the new Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe [Complete edition of Marx and Engels] (MEGA); in this work he would develop his conception of “socialism from below” (“socialism from below”). During this time, he also stood out as an essayist, translator, archivist and news compiler (clippings), contributing to the preservation of WP-ISL's documentary legacy.

In 1981, Hal Draper founded the Center for Socialist History [Center for Socialist History], an institution that promoted research and publications on the history of socialism – a project to which he dedicated himself until his death.

The following year, he published his prestigious translation The complete poems of Heinrich Heine: a modern English translation [Complete Poems of Heinrich Heine: A Modern English Translation]; and, in 1985, he edited the work The Marx-Engels cyclopedia [The Marx-Engels encyclopedia]. During this decade, he remained active in political activism, having called for international brigades to fight the Contra paramilitaries in Nicaragua – reactionary militias supported by the US to oppose the Sandinista Revolution (1979).

Hal Draper died in 1990 of pneumonia at his home in Berkeley at age 75.

Contributions to Marxism

Hal Draper was an American socialist activist, essayist, editor and translator who researched and wrote about Marxism and socialism for five decades, as well as XNUMXth century American politics, culture and society.

The formation and dissemination of the concept of “socialism from below” was one of Hal Draper's main political and theoretical contributions to 1960th century Marxism, permeating, even if indirectly, almost all of his work, especially from the 1960s onwards. . This concept is a product of both Hal Draper's experience as a political activist in left-wing parties in the United States and his exegesis in the classics of socialist thought, especially Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, William Morris, Vladimir I. Lenin, among others. His formulation of the concept of socialism from below aimed to address and intervene in debates on the issue of political and party organization on the left within the American political context from the XNUMXs onwards.

The idea of ​​“socialism from below” comes from his criticism of the social-democratic and Stalinist party models, which he considers elitist, sectarian, dogmatic, bureaucratic and technocratic, incompatible with the principle of self-emancipation of the working classes – which should , in turn, be a product of the “socialist revolution” and the “democratic revolution”, through class struggles. Draper called its counterpart “socialism from above” (“socialism from above”); This group included utopian socialists, social democracy, Fabian socialism (non-Marxist reformist movement), Stalinism and anarchism.

Em The two souls of socialism [The two souls of socialism] (1966) – in a similar way to the third part of communist manifesto (1848), by Marx and Engels –, Draper updates the cartography of the post-1848 socialist movement, organizing it into socialism from above versus socialism from below. According to him, while that type of socialism has an elitist, sectarian, philanthropic, reformist, autocratic and technocratic character, the current socialism from below, which would have been the one founded by Marx and Engels, was the first of the socialist movement to combine the socialism with democracy and establishing the working classes as agents of their economic and political emancipation from capitalism and the bourgeois classes. For Hal Draper, the function of socialist organizations is to educate and mobilize the working classes for their self-emancipation, that is, to be a catalyst for class struggles – and never a messianic guide for the proletarians.

In later tests, such as Toward a new beginning: on another road – the alternative to the micro-sect [Towards a new beginning: on another road – the alternative to the microsect] (1971) and Anatomy of the micro-sect [Anatomy of the microsect] (1973), as well as in texts that aimed to demystify the conception of the Leninist party – such as “The myth of Lenin's 'concept of the party': or what they did to What is to be done?” [“The myth of Lenin's 'party conception': or what they did What to do?”] (Historical Materialism, 1999) –, Draper unfolds the conception of socialism from below and the tactics in which socialist organizations would be able to boost and set in motion the project of self-emancipation of the working classes.

Returning to the political experience of Marx, Engels and Lenin, Draper proposes that the appropriate organization to achieve socialism from below is the political center, materialized in some editorial project (newspaper or magazine, such as New Rhenish Gazette, by Marx and Engels, or the Iskra, by Lenin). Through a press organ, the political center, formed by its “Editorial Council”, would disseminate ideas, literature and seek to influence the existing political organizations of the working classes, as well as other left-wing political organizations, towards the socialist revolution and democratic.

Hal Draper defends the thesis that this was the organizational model of Marx, Engels and Lenin: a socialist, non-sectarian organization, organized based on a periodical, which builds, organizes and gives theoretical cohesion to the political center – which, in turn, instead, it operates within the existing labor movement. Therefore, the political center does not “create” or “command” the workers’ movement, but helps it to gain a socialist and democratic, that is, revolutionary, form. According to Draper, Marx and Engels would not have properly built a Marxist party or organization; their participation in the labor movement took place through the political center, whether in the League of Communists (1847-1852), in the New Rhenish Gazette (1848-1849) or the International Workers' Association (1864-1876).

The principle that guides this political conception and tactic is the self-emancipation of the working classes, in which socialism is possible through their self-activity in class struggles. Socialists should act within class struggles in society and, through education and political propaganda, direct the working classes towards democracy and socialism. This movement, by contradicting the bourgeois classes and their institutions, would threaten the foundations of capitalist society, opening up the potential for insurrections and revolutions.

It is also worth highlighting that Hal Draper is recognized as a great scholar of Marxian thought, especially for his aforementioned work Karl Marx's theory of revolution. However, even though it is a major project, in which Draper demonstrates his erudition and knowledge about the texts of Marx and Engels, the book was questioned by some critics, with the allegation that the author had disregarded differences between the young Marx (from texts like the manuscripts from paris, from 1844) and the mature (from works such as The capital, from 1867) – a topic that continues to be a source of controversy among Marxist currents. Another point raised was Hal Draper's scant debate with contemporary Marxist thinkers, such as Lukács and Poulantzas, who studied many of the same themes he examined in Marx's work.

Among the themes he developed, it is understood that Hal Draper's most striking contributions to historical materialism are: his conception of socialism from below; his ideas on the issues of organization and function of socialist parties; and his work editing and translating the works of Marx and Engels into English – which promoted the spread of Marxism in the United States.

Comment on the work

Until the 1950s, most of Hal Draper's texts consisted of the publication of articles and pamphlets in which he analyzed the American and international political situation, debated the dilemmas of American left-wing parties and reviewed books and films. Some of these texts were signed with pseudonyms, such as “Paul Temple” and “Philip Coben”.

Among these first texts, the following stand out: “Out of their own mouths: a documentary study of the new line of the Comintern on war”. Comintern about war”] (Young People's Socialist League, 1936), pamphlet in which he accuses the Third International of heading towards a “social-patriotic position” similar to that which led to the collapse of the Second International; and “What life in US will be like when it enters war: a preview” (How will life in the US be like when it enters war: a preview) (Socialist Appeal, v. III, no. 68, 11/09/1939), in which he states that, if the country enters the conflict, young people will be the “greatest source of ammunition for the cannons”, while workers and their unions will be subjected to a “dictatorship” directed by representatives of the “Sixty Families” that dominate the nation’s government.

In 1965, it published The student movement of the thirties: a political history [The student movement of the 1930s: a political history] (S/l: s / n, 1965), text in which he writes a history of the student movement of the 1930s, of which he was a part.

That same year, he published the aforementioned Berkeley: the new student revolt (New York: Grove, 1965); Written in the midst of the 1964 student rebellion and taking sides with the students' cause, it is the main political and historiographical book about the event that took place at the University of California.

With the assistance of Center for Socialist History, edited the The Marx-Engels cyclopedia (New York: Schocken, 1985), work in three volumes. The first volume presents a chronology of the public and private lives of Marx and Engels. The second is a meticulous and obsessive work by the American Marxist: a complete and detailed bibliographical compendium of everything written by Marx and Engels (titles, dates, circumstances, place of publication, translations and other details) – a great service for studies Marxians. Finally, the third is the glossary and index of volumes I and II.

As a translator, he published the The complete poems of Heinrich Heine: a modern English translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), recognized as a major editorial achievement – ​​one of the finest English-language versions of Heine's poetry, providing the most accessible and accurate translation of his verse to English-speaking audiences. The result of work begun in 1948 and completed in the mid-1970s, the publication gave Draper prestige beyond socialist circles.

Regarding Latin America, Draper commented on Marx's considerations regarding Simón Bolívar in “Karl Marx and Simón Bolívar: a note on authoritarian leadership in a national-liberation movement"(New Politics, New York, v. 7, no. 1, 1968), translated into Spanish as “Carlos Marx and Simón Bolívar: point out authoritarian leadership in a national liberation movement"(Economic development, Buenos Aires, vol. 8, no. 30/31, 1968). In the text, he considers that Marx's criticism of Bolívar – whom the German thinker considers a Bonapartist leader (that is, with an authoritarian, charismatic characteristic) who opposed the interests of the revolution – caused and continued to cause controversies among socialists regarding the role of the so-called Latin American “Liberator”. The American argues that such a negative perspective would be exaggerated, which was due, according to him, to the little information that Marx had at the time about the South American leader. Contrary to this opinion, Hal Draper highlights Bolívar's “progressive” role in the history of independence struggles, as leader of a “great national liberation movement”.

His main work is Karl Marx's theory of revolution (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977-1996, v. 1-4; Alameda-USA: Center for Socialist History, 2005, v. 5), recognized as much for her erudition and scientific rigor as for her writing qualities and style. This is an effort by Draper to excavate the entire work of Marx and Engels in search of a systematization of their political conceptions and practices, aiming to reorient the politics of socialist organizations of his time, which he identified as sects, or microsects, without real political link with the working classes and with class struggles in society, that is, even if involuntarily, they would be within the conception of socialist from above.

In his four volumes published during his lifetime (the fifth volume was published posthumously), Draper collected and organized all the available material on politics from Marx and Engels available in the 43 volumes of the Marx-Engels Work (MEW, 1956-1990), examining their understanding of Bonapartism, Birmarkism, Tsarism, social classes, revolution, bourgeois state and proletarian state, state bureaucracy, democracy and dictatorship, social revolution and permanent revolution, in addition to reviewing the history of organizations XNUMXth century socialists.

Although independent of Karl Marx's theory of revolution, the book The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' from Marx to Lenin [The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' from Marx to Lenin] (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987) follows the same project of in-depth investigation and rehabilitation of the political conception and practice of Marx and Engels. Considered by the author himself as a sequel to volume 3 of Karl Marx's theory of revolutionOn The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' from Marx to Lenin, Draper examines the concept of “dictatorship of the proletariat” from its formulation (by Marx and Engels), through the debates of the Socialist International (1889-1916), to the issue between Kautsky (The dictatorship of the proletariat, 1918) and Lenin (The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky, 1918) about the direction of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, and reaching Stalinism, when Hal Draper considers its transformation into a “collectivist bureaucracy”.

It is also worth highlighting the writings The two souls of socialism (Berkeley: Independent Socialist Committee, 1966), Toward a new beginning: on another road – the alternative to the micro-sect ([S. l.: s. n.], 1971), Anatomy of the micro-sect (S/l: s / n, 1973) and “The myth of Lenin's 'concept of the party': or what they did to what is to be done?” (Historical Materialism, New York, v. 4, no. 1, 1999), texts that follow the formation and evolution of the concept of socialism from below, one of its main contributions to Marxism – in which it deals with political and party organization.

Posthumously, Ernest Haberkern edited the works: Socialism from below [Socialism from below] (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities, 1992), selection of articles and manuscripts; War and revolution: Lenin and the myth of revolutionary defeatism [War and revolution: Lenin and the myth of revolutionary fatalism] (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities, 1996), reprint of the article “The myth of Lenin's 'revolutionary defeatism'” (New International, New York, v. 19, no. 5/6, 1953; v. 20, no. 1, 1954), and the aforementioned fifth volume of Karl Marx's theory of revolution.

Some of Draper's writings can be found on portals such as Socialist Worker (https://socialistworker.org) and the marxists (www.marxists.org).

Although considered one of the classics of Anglo-Saxon Marxism, Draper's work has been little translated; in Portuguese, there are some texts, such as: “The two souls of socialism” (October, São Paulo, n. 32, 2019 [1966]); and “Towards a new beginning: on another road – the alternative to the microsect” (marxists, 2018 [1971]) — both available online in digital format.

*Felipe Cotrim He has a master's degree in Economic History from the University of São Paulo (USP). Author of Young Engels: philosophical evolution and critique of political economy (Viriatus).

Originally published on the Praxis Nucleus-USP.


FARBER, Samuel. The Berkeley Free Speech Movement, 56 Years Later. Jacobin, New York, 3 September. 2020.

FLINT, Peter. “Hal Draper, 75, socialist writer who recounted Berkeley Protest” [Obituary]. The New York Times, New York, 31 Jan. nineteen ninety.

GEIER, Joel. “Radicals and the Berkeley Free Spreech Movement.” Jacobin, New York, 21 December. 2020.

HABERKERN, Ernest. “Introduction to Hal Draper.” Marxists Internet Archive, 1998. Disp: www.marxists.org/archive/draper.

HATFIELD, Henry. Studies in Romanticism, Boston, vol. 22, no. 4, 1983. Review by: Heinrich Heine. The complete poems: a modern english version [translated by Hal Draper]. Boston: Suhrkamp, ​​1982.

JOHNSON, Alan. “Democratic Marxism: the legacy of Hal Draper”. In: COWLING, Mark; REYNOLDS, Paul (org.). Marxism, the millennium and beyond. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

______. “Introduction: Hal Draper – a biographical sketch”. Historical Materialism, London, vol. 4, no. 1, 1999.

KUHN, Rick. “Continuing the 'excavation' of Marx's work”. Australian Journal of Political Science, London, vol. 41, no. 3, 2006.

LIPOW, Arthur. “Hal Draper – Karl Marx's theory of revolution (v. 1): state and bureaucracy”. Contemporary Sociology, Washington, vol. 7, no. 1, 1978.

PHELPS, Christopher. “Draper, Hal (1914-1990)”. In: BUHLE, Mari Jo; BUHLE, Paul; GEORGAKAS, Dan (org.). Encyclopedia of the American Left. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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