Pressed about whether being a Communist would close a teacher’s mind to any deviation from the party line, she replied that similar speculations had been raised against devout Roman Catholics.....Well, Vera Shlakman, born in 1909, a year later than that bastard Joe McCarthy, outlasted him by 60 years. Of course I imagine Al Shanker was on the sidelines cheering when she was fired.
I knew and know lots of red diaper babies -- the children of parents who were in the Communist Party USA, which had widespread influence in the 30s, especially in civil rights and the fight for unions. I think they were done in by their rigid adherence to the Stalinist line, even when he made a deal with Hitler in 1939.
I don't think the militant union movements in this country could have been built without the work of the CP. But then came the purge that left the unions in control of the kind of people who have led us to where we are today.
I'm very ambivalent about these kinds of political parties on the left (probably some on the right but I don't follow that end of the spectrum.) When I first got involved around 1970, the leading opposition group in the UFT at the time was a known as a CP outpost of teachers who were part of the old Teachers Union (TU), a bunch of whom had been fired around 1954. I learned from some mentors on the left that once a party line was set by the leadership -- not always obvious -- there was no way to deflect them from that line even if it became obvious that they were going in the wrong direction. But more on this topic, which needs to be explored more in depth, another time. Celebrate the life of Vera Shlakman. 108 is nothing to sneeze at. I only have 35 years to go.