J. B. S. Hardman
J. B. S. Hardman, born Jacob Benjamin Salutsky, (1882-1968) was a Russian-born Jewish-American political activist, radical journalist, and trade union functionary. Salutsky-Hardman was a proponent of radicalism as a Marxist thinker and a leader of the Jewish Socialist Federation of the Socialist Party of America. A brief stint in the American Communist movement ended in expulsion in 1923. For more than two decades thereafter, Hardman served as Education Directior of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA).
Salutsky was politicized at a young age, embracing Marxism and joining the General Jewish Labor Bund in 1902. Salutsky dedicated himself to the anti-Tsarist revolutionary work of the Bund and to labor organization over the subsequent several years, first heading a union of bank employees in Vilna before becoming the secretary of the central association of trade unions of Kiev.
Salutsky was a participant in the 1905 Russian Revolution as a party organizer in Vilna in 1906 and in Kiev in 1907. His activity drew the attention of the Tsarist secret police leading to three stints in prison for his political activity. After the failure of the 1905 Revolution, Salutsky went into exile, spending 1908 in Paris before leaving for America the following year.
Arrival in America
Salutsky arrived in the United States in 1909, became an active member of the Socialist Party and the trade union movement, and was elected in the summer of 1912 as the secretary of the Jewish Socialist Federation (JSF), the Yiddish-language affiliate of the Socialist Party. For a time, he served as Translator-Secretary of the JFS and editor of the Federation's weekly, Di Naye Welt (The New World), from 1914 to 1920.
As editor of Di Naye Welt, Salutsky strove to make it as an outlet through which his audience, Jewish immigrants, could familiarize themselves with the mainstream American culture of the time. The newspaper included translations of works by American and European authors, as well as poetry and theater reviews. The newspaper essentially worked towards "the Americanization of its members without adversely affecting their Jewish identity." Di Naye Welt also published biting criticism against the extreme radicalism of the underground Communist Party of America, stating that "the further they go, the more one can define them as a tendency of humbug, bluff, and demagogy."
Despite his criticism of the delusions and excesses of the underground Communist Party, Salutsky found himself in general agreement with the radical critique of the tepid moderation of the Socialist Party and sought to join an open and realistic Communist Party. Inside the Socialist Party of America until 1921, Salutsky was a leading member of the left wing faction called "The Committee for a Third International," which attempted to affiliate the SPA with the Communist International in 1920.
Following the defeat of these efforts, Salutsky broke with the SPA in 1921 and helped to organize the Workers Council, a Marxist organization which pushed for an end to the dysfunctional factionalism of the underground Communist Party and establishment of a new open and "legal" organization. This came to fruition in the last days of 1921 with the establishment of the Workers Party of America (WPA); the Workers Council joined this new legal arm of the underground CPA en bloc, with Salutsky becoming a member of the governing Central Executive Committee of the group.
Hardman remained critical of the underground Communists, who continued to exist in parallel with the legal WPA, believing them "intent on building a new vehicle to carry the old Communist war." His disaffection growing, Salutsky began to turn his attention to the organized labor movement, becoming the editor of the American Labor Monthly, a socialist-oriented labor magazine in 1923. This same year saw his expulsion from the Workers Party for refusing intervene on behalf of the WP at the Conference for Progressive Political Action in Cleveland 1922 and for refusing to submit the American Labor Monthly to party control.
Trade union activity
In 1924 the former Jacob Benjamin Salutsky adopted a new surname, Hardman, and henceforth was known as J.B.S. Hardman.
In the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America he served as director of education and cultural activities of the ACWA for twenty-four years, as well as editor of the union’s official publication, The Advance from 1925 to 1944.
His deep interest in the educational betterment of workers is reflected in his appointment to the Executive Committee of the Workers' Education Bureau of America, founded in 1921 by trade union progressives and educators. The ACWA emphasized the value of education for the growing number of its workers. Likewise, Hardman regarded higher education of workers, as a necessary element of the worries of the union, as reflected in the following, "but when the body of the worker is more rested and better fed, his intellect should likewise be taken are of."
From 1929 to 1933, Hardman served as a member of the executive committee of the Conference for Progressive Labor Action (CPLA), a radical labor organization associated with A. J. Muste and Brookwood Labor College. Hardman was bitterly opposed the CPLA joining with the Trotskyist Communist League of America to form a new organization called the American Workers Party in 1934 and quit that organization soon after that organization was launched. Hardman thereafter came into the orbit of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party over the next few years, and was supportive the Presidential efforts of Franklin D. Roosevelt by 1936.
From 1945 to 1953, he founded and served as editor of the periodical, Labor and Nation. The publication of Labor and Nation, aspired to "bring labor leaders and intellectuals together to create a more educated and nationally aware labor leadership" and to "foster a group of dedicated intellectuals in the service of labor."
He also served as chairman of the Inter-Union Institute for Labor and Democracy that served as an inclusive forum where men of the varying political left spectrum, save for the Communists, could discuss the labor movement.
Death and legacy
Jacob Hardman died on January 29, 1968. He was 85 years old at the time of his death.
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