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Letters of Sidney Hook edited by Edward S. Shapiro

- Abstract

On February 18, 1937, the late Sidney Hook wrote a letter—the first of several—to one Jerome Davis. Davis was a professor of sociology at the Yale Divinity School and, to judge from Hook’s remonstrations, a once-soft liberal recently turned outright Communist fellow-traveler. At the time, Hook—already well known as a philosopher and an authority on Karl Marx, and as one who had moved from a brief fling with Communism to the anti-Communism which would remain his lifelong passion—was engaged, along with John Dewey, Horace Kallen, Norman Thomas, Franz Boas, and other certified liberals, in an organization called the Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky.

This committee had been established to sift the evidence, if any, for Stalin’s charges against Trotsky, and it would eventually widen its scope to include the Moscow Trials. And Jerome Davis? He had added his name to a letter, circulated under orders from the Communist Party USA, denouncing the committee with that inimitable vocabulary of scurrility for which the Communists had by the 1930′s become famous. Now Hook demanded to know why Davis had joined in this attack, especially in light of the fact that Hook, along with some other members of the committee, had also been engaged in defending Davis himself, on civil-libertarian grounds, against the Yale Divinity School, which was intending to fire him for ideological reasons.

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