Harrington, Michael, 1928-

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Michael Harrington (1928-1989), a U.S. socialist writer and political leader, was born in St. Louis, received a Jesuit secondary education, graduated from Holy Cross College in 1947 and, after a brief interval at Yale Law School, received a MA degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1949, then moved to New York City. From 1951-53 he was a volunteer at the radical Catholic Worker house on New York's Lower East Side, and was associate editor of its newspaper, also called the Catholic Worker. Leaving Catholicism, he first became organizational director of the Workers Defense League in 1953, joined the Socialist Party, and shortly became the leader of the SP's Young People's Socialist League. Coming under the influence of the (not quite yet) post-Trotskyist Max Shachtman, whose anti-Communism and grand political strategy, known as realignment (i.e., seeking to employ a leftist-influenced organized labor movement as the leading force in reorienting the Democratic Party towards socialism) became and remained in one form or another the cornerstones of Harrington's political outlook, Harrington led the New York YPSL into Shachtman's Independent Socialist League in 1954, and served as YPSL national chair until the 1958 dissolution of the ISL and its members' return to the Socialist Party, and from 1960-62 edited New America, the SP paper.

From 1954 through 1962, Harrington worked as a researcher for the Fund for the Republic, notably on its study of blacklisting in the film industry, and wrote for liberal and left journals of opinion such as Dissent. A 1957 Commentary article on poverty grew into The Other America, which made Harrington a national figure, and which was widely credited with influencing the development of the so-called War on Poverty and related local programs during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. The Port Huron Statement, also published in 1962 by the Students for a Democratic Society, originally a project of the SP-associated League for Industrial Democracy, for whom Harrington served as liaison to SDS (he would become LID head in 1964), was sharply criticized by Harrington for being insufficiently anti-Communist. This marked the beginning of a decade of often sharp disagreement with the New Left, most importantly on the related issue of the Vietnam War. While Harrington's Realignment Caucus within the SP (he was elected SP chair in 1968) opposed the war, it did not support unconditional withdrawal. In 1971 Harrington formed the Coalition Caucus, which backed the 1972 presidential candidacy of George McGovern in opposition to the pro-war SP majority, then left the SP to found (in February 1973) the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, which merged, in 1982, with the New American Movement, an organization of New Left veterans, to form the Democratic Socialists of America. In 1972 Harrington became a professor of political science at Queens College in New York City, played a leading role during the 1980s in the drafting of the Socialist International's New Declaration of Principles, and continued to write, lecture and travel widely until his death from cancer in 1989. Among his many books were two autobiographical works, Taking Sides: The Education of a Militant Mind (1985) and The Long-Distance Runner : An Autobiography (1987), The New American Poverty (1984), The Politics at God's Funeral: The Spiritual Crisis of Western Civilization (1985), and Socialism : Past and Future (1989).

From the description of Papers, 1946-1990 (bulk 1960-1989). (New York University). WorldCat record id: 475957786

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Guide to the Oral History of the American Left Collection, 1940-2011 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf Harrington, Michael, 1928-. Papers, 1946-1990 (bulk 1960-1989). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Dwight Macdonald papers, 1865-1984 (bulk 1920-1978) Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Socialists of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Gershman, Carl. person
associatedWith MacDonald, Dwight. person
associatedWith Munaẓẓamat al-Taḥrīr al-Filasṭīnīyah. corporateBody
associatedWith Socialist International (1951- ) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States


Birth 1928


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