Sunday, October 4, 2009
Martin "Marty" Abern was born December 2, 1898 in Romania, the son of an ethnic Jewish peddler. The family emigrated to the United States in 1902, moving to Minneapolis the following year. The young man was radically inclined from an early age, joining the Socialist Party of America's youth section, the Young People's Socialist League in 1912, the Socialist Party itself in 1915, and the Industrial Workers of the World circa 1916. He seems to have been a member of the Communist Party of America at the time of its establishment in the fall of 1919 or shortly thereafter. He attended the University of Minnesota for two years but was expelled for his radical views in 1920. In November 1920, the US Department of Justice attempted to make Abern a test case for the deportation of alien radicals citing Communist Party membership as sole grounds for action.
Abern was a delegate to the 2nd World Congress of the Young Communist International (YCI), held in Moscow in June 1921. He was on the governing National Executive Committee of the Young Workers League of America (YWL) from May 1922 and was reelected by the convention of that organization held the following year. Abern served as Secretary of the YWL from May 30, 1922 to October 19, 1922, resigning for reasons of health. Abern was a fraternal delegate of the YWL to the ill-fated 1922 Bridgman Convention of the Communist Party in August 1922 and served on a 3 man editorial committee of the YWL from that same fall. Abern also briefly was part of a 3 person Secretariat running the Young Workers League in the summer and fall of 1924 before being replaced as National Secretary on October 15 by John Williamson.
Abern also sat on the governing Central Executive Committee of the adult Communist Party (then known as the Workers Party of America) from 1923 to 1928, supporting the majority faction of Foster-Cannon-Lore during the bitter factional fighting that characterized the decade
Abern was expelled from the Workers (Communist) Party in 1928 for supporting Leon Trotsky and James P. Cannon. He was a founding member of the Communist League of America (CLA) in May 1928 and sat on the governing National Committee of that organization from 1931 to 1934. He was an ally of Max Shachtman against Cannon in the factional fighting of this period. Abern was also a founding member of Workers Party of the United States in 1934, formed when the CLA merged with A.J. Muste's Workers Party. He was a member of the National Committee of that organization from 1934 to 1936. In that year he and other Trotskyists entered the Socialist Party en masse, a brief interlude ending with their expulsion in 1937.
In 1938, Abern helped found the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and he was on the National Committee of that organization from 1938 until 1940. The April 1940 convention of the SWP instructed the National Committee of the party to take disciplinary action against Abern, Shachtman, James Burnham, and their factional supporters if that group failed to abide by the decisions of the convention. In accordance with these instructions, the National Committee suspended Burnham, Shachtman, and Abern at its meeting of April 22, 1940, giving the members of this so-called "petty-bourgeois opposition" an opportunity to recant and return to the party. Burham left the radical movement at this time, while Abern joined Max Shachtman's in establishing a new organization called the Workers Party. The pair were expelled from the SWP by a Plenum Conference held in Chicago from Sept. 27 to 29, 1940.
Abern continued to support Trotsky's unconditional defence of the Soviet Union and broke politically with Shachtman in 1940, but he remained in the Workers Party organization until his death in April 1949 at the age of 49.