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Web Letter

Behind the godfather of the neoconservative persuasion looms the specter of Alcove No. 1 in the CCNY cafeteria during the 1930s. Alcove No. 1 was the spot where Irving Kristol (recruited by Irving Howe), Seymore Martin Lipset, Irving Howe and Daniel Bell, among other budding ideological notables, ate their brown-bag lunches and plotted the theory and practice of anti-Stalinist left-wing ideology, sometimes referred to as Trotskyism, Shachtmanism or just plain old-style intellectual anticommunist socialism.

Alcove No. 1 was the site where aspiring dentists, doctors, accountants, physicists became disillusioned with their immigrant parents' dreams and became "social scientists." The ideological debates internal to this student political faction, sometimes known as the YPSLs, became a lifelong political and literary obsession. The "little magazine" or the "internal discussion bulletin" became the anvil or the tool upon which the avant-guard ideas and "positions" were forged: What is the nature of the USSR? Is it a "workers' state" worthy of support or was it ruled by a "new class" of bureaucratic collectivists? What is the motor force of history? The "new class" theory was nothing new to these young socialists.

Many of the members of the alcove made the question "Why is there no socialism in the United States" a lifelong intellectual career. Using the sharp debating skills acquired during endless hours of discussion and the literary skills developed editing the"internal discussion bulletins," the members of the Alcove entered adult life ready to do battle with the " mushy-headed liberals," the Stalinists, the Stalinoids and all comers.

Lawrence Gulotta

Brooklyn, NY

Sep 30 2009 - 2:58pm

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