Michael Harrington's Legacy
I was present for a speech Harrington gave to the 1983 convention of the UAW where he told delegates their enemies weren’t Mexican workers but the companies that pitted workers against each other. The delegates were largely silent at first, but as Harrington’s logic unfolded and his passion exploded, they raised the roof with their cheers.
Harrington died in 1989, just sixty-one years old. He did not succeed in building a mass socialist organization — that would require two decades more of capitalism’s erosion of democracy and economic security, the crash of 2008, and the elite recovery that followed. But no one who’d read Mike’s writing or heard him speak could be completely surprised at the instability and cruelty of capitalism, nor by the current democratic-socialist surge against the devastation that capitalism has wrought.
In a time when America and the world were moving rightwards, Harrington kept the socialist flame burning, and fitted the socialist idea to the global challenges of the twenty-first century.
Maurice Isserman, Maxine Phillips and I each have Mike stories up on Jacobin's website today:
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