Hal Draper

From Academic Kids

Hal Draper (1914 -1990) was an American socialist activist, Marxist, Left-Shachtmanite, and author, perhaps best known for his role in Berkeley, California Free Speech Movement.

Initially a member of the Socialist Party of America's Young People's Socialist League he was won with that organisation to Trotskyism. Along with the YPSL he took part in the founding of the Socialist Workers' Party in 1938.

By 1940 he was part of a faction within the SWP which objected to the internal regime of that party and was developing an analysis of the USSR as a bureaucratic collectivist society in which a new class, the state bureaucracy, held social and state power. In 1940 they became the Workers Party led by Max Shachtman.

By 1948 the WP believed that the prospects for revolution were receding and that it must transform itself into a propaganda group. Therefore it became the Independent Socialist League and Hal Draper continued as one of its leading writers and functionaries.

With a shrinking membership, although its youth work was buoyant, the ISL leadership around Shachtman decided that the time had come to join forces with the Socialist Party of America and in 1958 fused into it. This was a development that Draper opposed although he went along with for lack of an alternative orientation.

In 1962, after an ultimatum from Joel Geier later a leader of the Independent Socialists, Draper now resident in Berkeley, California, formed the Independent Socialist Club (ISC) outside the SPA. In 1964 Draper was heavily involved in the Free Speech Movement, an important precursor of that decade's New Left, on the University of California Berkeley campus.

In 1968 ISC became the Independent Socialists as it expanded nationally. But in 1971 he quit the IS due to his concern that IS was no longer placing the working class at the centre of its analysis. From then onwards he produced a stream of scholarly works on Marxism and the workers' movement.

His most enduring legacy is likely to be his four volume study Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution. Its main arguments are summarised in the pamphlet The Two Souls of Socialism.

Organizations he was a member of:

Outside his overtly political writings, Draper's most outstanding work is arguably short story Ms Fnd in a Lbry, a satire of the information age, written in 1961.

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