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|Title||Lincoln Steffens letter to Anna Louise Strong regarding a draft of her autobiography, particularly the section about Leon Trotsky, ca. 1934|
|Author||Steffens, Lincoln, 1866-1936|
This letter expresses Lincoln Steffens's reaction to having read several more draft chapters of Anna Louise Strong's autobiography, which was published under the title "I Change Worlds: The Remaking of an American" in 1935. He expresses much admiration for the work she's done on the manuscript, particularly "the first part, the American chapters". He hopes that the example of the Seattle General Strike can be used to analyze the San Francisco General Strike occurring in 1934, but emphasizes his belief that the events in Seattle should be criticized in "the Russian part" of the book, where she can draw on her experiences in the Soviet Union to "illustrate the difference between the two cultures" .
Steffens says that the book is what he had hoped for: a depiction of Strong's "progress from our old Christian-Greek culture to the Communist Culture that will probably prevail for the Next Two Thousand years". He voices concern that Strong has been too quick to see herself as having "made the grade", and suggests she ask Borodin if he agrees with Steffens that Strong isn't done with the transition. Steffens notes that crossing completely from one philosophy to another is nearly impossible .
His evidence of the difficulty is that both Strong and Max Eastman are too willing to defend Leon Trotsky. Steffens claims that Strong's desire that Trotsky be given "justice" is a mistake, because "justice is for the people. Don't answer that justice is for both." He suggests that Strong needs to see in Trotsky "what Borodin and the Party want you to see", and adds that, if she can't do so, she should write about Trotsky separately from this autobiography. Steffens claims that Trotsky was once a "hero" of his, but he has rejected those feelings now that Trotsky has put "right" over the unity of the communist movement. Steffens claims that Trotsky's statements should only have been for the party's internal discussion, and that voicing them publicly gives them to "the enemy". He encourages Strong to "get back on the line" and comments that "the Truth from now on is always dated: never absolute, never eternal." He believes that she can still learn from what he's saying, and that Max Eastman cannot .
Steffens returns to the topic of the manuscript, and encourages Strong to build on the strength of the American chapters by telling "the tale of your unlearning all that and of your learning all this, step by step, point by point, so that we follow you."
Steffens comments on how the rise of fascism is affecting his attitude about free speech. He says, "We want liberty for us, but not for Hitler and Mussolini. And liberals can't make that 'right." He comments that Strong sees how everything is changed by "the process of history", and reminds her not to leave her mind and instincts behind as she "makes the passage" into communism .
In a hand-written postscript, Steffens asks her to assist Abe Mellinkoff, a young man Steffens knew in California who had just recently gone to Russia. Steffens describes him as "all wrong, but learning. And he can write."
Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936) was an American journalist and one of the most prominent "muckrakers" of the early 20th Century. As editor of McClure's Magazine in the early 1900s, he exposed political corruption in American government at a state and local level. After his experiences observing the Mexican Revolution and the changes taking place in the early years of the Soviet Union, Steffens became more radical politically, and remained vocal in his support of left-wing movements until the end of his life.
Anna Louise Strong (1885-1970) was an American journalist and political activist throughout her life. For most of the 1910s, she devoted herself to working as a progressive reformer in favor of child welfare. Towards the end of that decade, she began to involve herself in the labor movement in Seattle, and through those experiences became increasingly committed to the cause of international communism. In the 1920s and 1930s, she spent most of her time living in the Soviet Union, working as a journalist and writing books about her experiences for Western audiences that would convince them of the success of communism. While living there, she met with Trotsky (whom she taught to speak English) and Stalin, and created an English-language paper called the Moscow News. After World War II, however, though Strong remained supportive of the Soviet Union, her vocal support of the communist movement in China alienated the government in Moscow, and Strong was only allowed to visit the USSR once in the final two decades of her life. Because of this, she spent her final years living in the People's Republic of China, befriending Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, and continuing to write books about her experiences that were designed to win more support for communism worldwide.
"Borodin" is almost certainly Mikhail Markovich Borodin (1884-1951), who worked as a Comintern agent from 1919 to 1928. During most of the 1920s, he was an agent in China, advising Sun Yat Sen and helping supply the Kuomintang government with Soviet arms. After Sun Yat Sen's death, Chiang Kai-Shek purged the communists from the Kuomintang, and Borodin returned to the Soviet Union, where he worked for a period of time as an editor for the Moscow News, the English-language paper that Anna Louise Strong had founded. In 1949, he was accused of being an enemy of the Soviet Union, and was sent to a gulag, where he died two years later.
Steffens, Lincoln, 1866-1936--Correspondence
Strong, Anna Louise, 1885-1970--Correspondence
Strong, Anna Louise--1885-1970--Biography
Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940
|Digital Collection||Pamphlet and Textual Documents Collection|
|Digital ID Number||PAM0377|
|Ordering Information||To order a reproduction or inquire about permissions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please cite the Order Number.|
|Repository||University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division|
|Repository Collection||Anna Louise Strong Papers. Accession No. 1309-001. Box 1/89.|
|Object Type||Letter (correspondence)|
|Physical Description||7 leaves; 12.5 x 20.5 cm.|
|Digital Reproduction Information||Scanned from original text or image at 200 dpi saved in TIFF format, resized and enhanced using Adobe Photoshop, and imported as JPEG2000 using Contentdm software's JPEG2000 Extension. 2010.|