Paul N. Siegel

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Paul Noah Siegel (1916, Paterson, New Jersey – 2004) was an American Marxist, a Professor emeritus of English and a distinguished Shakespeare scholar. And he is the author of several books on those subjects.


His parents were Jewish immigrants to the U.S. from eastern Poland, which at the time was under Tsarist Russian rule. Although his mother was a very religious woman, Paul Siegel was not required to attend synagogue, and he never became religious. At an early age the child began to read extensively and soon became a veritable bookworm.

At the age of 15, Paul N. Siegel already considered himself a socialist. In 1936 he joined the Young Communist League, the youth organization of the Communist Party. He attended Harvard University where he graduated as M.A. in 1939 and earned a PhD in English literature in 1941.

During his time at Harvard and after the Moscow show trials, he gradually moved away from the Stalinist Communist Party. After reading Trotsky’s Revolution Betrayed he became a close sympathizer of Trotskyism. He soon joined the Socialist Workers Party and launched an SWP branch in Cambridge which soon fused with the Boston branch. Siegel sided with James P. Cannon when the SWP split between Cannon and Max Shachtman occurred in 1940.

When the US decided to intervene in World War II, Siegel was drafted. For some four years he served in the Medical Administration Corps of the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of captain. He still kept in touch with the SWP during the war and made efforts to educate his army cohorts about activities of the United States around the world.

After the war, Siegel became a teacher and instructor of English literature, first at the University of Connecticut, then from 1946–1949 at the College of the City of New York. During his time in New York he was very active in the Socialist Workers Party branch there, and wrote in the Militant under the pseudonym Paul Shapiro. In January 1948, he married Edith Zwerling (born 1907), also an SWP member, whom he met in New York. They had a daughter named Rosalind in May 1950. In 1949 they moved to Wisconsin where Siegel taught at the Ripon College (1949–1956).

When a factional struggle unfolded in the SWP in the early 1950s, Siegel and his wife sided with Bert Cochran and the Cochranites, a group that considered the SWP too sectarian, and they left the party in 1953 to launch a new group, the American Socialist Union.

In 1956, Siegel became professor of English at Long Island University (Brooklyn, NYC) and chairman of the English literature department of that university (1956–1971). During the 1960s, Siegel became very active in the movement against the Vietnam War. At this time, Siegel also started to reconsider his opinions about the Socialist Workers Party, and he eventually re-joined the SWP in 1978 after retiring from his university job. He wrote the introduction to some of the books by Trotsky published by Pathfinder Press. However, in the 1980s, Siegel sided with an opposition current within the SWP criticizing the new leadership under Jack Barnes, saying it was drifting away from Trotskyism. Siegel left the SWP in 1983. He became a founding member of the Socialist Action group together with other Trotskyists who had left or been expelled from the SWP.

Siegel participated in the first Trotskyist delegation allowed to visit the Soviet Union during the Glasnost era. He became co-chairman of the Moscow Trial Campaign Committee, which was set up in New York to organize an international campaign demanding the rehabilitation of Leon Trotsky and the other Russian Communists who were killed during the Stalinist purges.

Siegel's wife Edith died in 1999. He continued to live in their long-time New York City apartment. He was soon joined by his granddaughter, Jenni Celia Robertson. Jenni cared for him after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in late 2003. Paul Siegel died in New York City on April 26, 2004.

Paul N. Siegel wrote many books about literature from a Marxist perspective, chiefly concerning Shakespeare.


External links[edit]

  • The complete version of the article above and a selective bibliography of Paul N. Siegel provides The Lubitz TrotskyanaNet