Memories and Messages: Nat Weinstein
October 3, 1924—May 9, 2014
I, with the utmost respect, send my heartfelt condolence to Nat Weinstein’s family, friends and other revolutionaries who respect and care about him!
From his support of the late Malcolm X to all the other people that this society regarded as “different and unacceptable,” to the organizations that he worked for and helped bring into existence, all have been honored to have had such a man within their presence during their lifetime!
Men like Mr. Weinstein don’t come around too often in life, so when one does, we must learn from him, count our blessings that he was given to us, and mourn his passing.
With respect, solidarity and continued struggle! Mr. Weinstein wouldn’t have it any other way, would he?
Sincerely and Respectfully From Death Row At San Quentin Prison,
We are always left bereft by the passing of the great elders of our movement and Nat Weinstein was one of them. Although not a person of facile agreement, there was NEVER a question of Nat’s lifelong harmony with the overall goals of the left and socialism.
His early recognition of the power of Malcolm X’s writing and thinking, and his work to make it available at the time when the Black/Left community was formulating a program to move from protest to power, serves as a potent example to all of us who understand the impetus of nationalism within the context of “all of us or none of us.” Further, his founding and work along with his daughter Bonnie and Carole Seligman of the magazine Socialist Viewpoint is a one of the greatest stimuli to what we hope is a burgeoning movement. On a personal level, the magazine kept my imprisonment and the fight to set me free and bring me home on the high-heat burner, month after month. The outburst of joy by all of those on New Years Eve, who had helped bring it about was due in no small measure to the magazine that Nat started and sustained until his passing from us.
Nat Weinstein should be remembered and mourned by all comrades. He should be celebrated in true Joe Hill style by Organize! Organize! Organize!
I first met Nat and Sylvia in the summer of 1960 on the corner of 8th St. and the Avenue of the Americas in Greenwich Village. My husband, Lynn, and I had walked over to the corner from our apartment. Sylvia stood on a soapbox speaking, while Nat was busy selling the socialist newspaper, The Militant, to people walking by. Lynn struck up a conversation with Nat and Sylvia and discovered that they were members of a socialist group, The Socialist Workers Party, and that they had a headquarters nearby, at 116 University Place.
A week later Lynn walked over there and joined the SWP, and soon afterwards we became good friends with Nat and Sylvia. It was a friendship that was to last for the rest of Nat and Sylvia’s lives.
I was introduced to the Civil Rights Movement by them and became actively involved. We stood outside Woolworths with picket signs calling for people to boycott the store and at the same time we collected food and clothing donations from people walking and driving by. The donations were then driven down to North Carolina and distributed to the Black people in need. Often I went with Sylvia into Black churches during Sunday services to support the events that were happening in the Civil Rights Movement; and I traveled to Washington D.C. on the bus with Nat and Sylvia for the 1963 March on Washington.
When the Vietnam War broke out Nat and Sylvia stood in the forefront, organizing protests against the war and demanding that the U.S. Government “Bring The Troops Home Now.”
Nat and Sylvia spent their entire adult lives fighting for the rights of workers in the workplace, fighting against racial discrimination, fighting for equal rights for women, fighting for the right for children to grow up in a healthy and happy environment. They campaigned for the rights of all children to have free childcare under the slogan “It will be a Great Day when the schools have all the money they need; and the Navy has to hold a bake sale to buy a ship.” That is one of my all-time favorite slogans. And they campaigned for free education for all.
Although today is a celebration of the Life of Nat Weinstein, it is also a celebration of the Life of Sylvia Weinstein. They were a team—an inseparable team until Sylvia’s death in 2001. They stood together hand in hand all their adult lives fighting injustices brought on by the capitalist system against men, women, and children.
When so many Americans were trying to escape from the working class, Nat Weinstein was trying to help the entire class escape the bonds of capitalist oppression, which distort the human spirit, and make us small and petty, and hateful to each other. The vision Nat shared with Marx and the other great revolutionaries was the touchstone of his life. It is the touchstone which must be the foundation of our future.
From the moment I first met Nat and Sylvia after coming to the Bay area in July 1969, I recognized them as a radiant couple, aflame with the world-transforming convictions of revolutionary socialism. Over the following decades, they worked in season and out for the overthrow of class oppression and all that goes with it. Through their activity in the unions and social movements, in Marxist educational classes and over dinner in their warm and welcoming home, they taught me and many other young people that the ideals of working class emancipation express an ambition for which a lifetime’s energy might rightly be spent. Nat’s inspiration will especially endure in the memory of all of us who had the honor to call him comrade.
—Alan Wald, Editorial Board, Against the Current and Science and Society
The working class never had a more dedicated fighter than you. You’ve always had righteous class anger in your guts, and you always spoke the straight unvarnished truth as you saw it. When we finally succeed in overthrowing the parasitic capitalist leeches, it will be because militant workers followed your example. Solidarity Forever!
—Tom Bias, treasurer Labor Fightback Network
No matter what, please know that your life’s work, your dedication to revolutionary socialism, has been worthy at every juncture. Most important, it will be carried on. Many of us remain committed to organizing the fight to overturn capitalism before it destroys us and our planet, and when the history of the Second American Revolution is written your name will feature prominently as one of its stalwarts.
I remember warmly Nat and Sylvia Weinstein’s hospitality during my brief stay in San Francisco in the early 90s as well as hosting Mercia Andrews and Neville Alexander from our organization at that time-the Workers Organization for Socialist Action. As I write this message the excellent foreword written by Nat for Neville Alexander’s book ‘South Africa: Which Road to Freedom?’ is next to me. I refer to it often. We want Nat to know that we have been vindicated in our joint analysis of racial capitalism and the relevance of permanent revolution. The struggle for socialism in South Africa remains on the agenda and the class struggle continues to gain momentum. Comrade Nat’s unwavering commitment over many decades to internationalism, and the struggle against imperialism and a world without war, exploitation, racism, patriarchy and oppression continues to inspire. Above all, and although we have not been in touch, please let Nat know that the support from him and his comrades made a difference and continues to be valued. Please convey to him my warm greetings and wishes for a speedy recovery.
Fellow worker, brother in the painters trade, extraordinary faux artist, collaborator of old Diego, never accepting their lies, never bowing to authority, always challenging the sacred, always embracing the revolutionary struggles of our class, never kneeling before capital—whenever the end comes, we will go out as rebels, will we not?
On behalf of the Socialist organization Solidarity, the Political Committee wishes to express our esteem for Nat Weinstein’s seven decades of unfaltering devotion to the socialist and working class movement, as well as our solidarity with his comrades and family members. In personal conduct as well as convictions, Nat exemplified the finest characteristics of the U.S. Trotskyist tradition as it was established by James P. Cannon in the 1930s. Those of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with Nat are everlastingly indebted to his formidable example.
I want to quote from a speech you know. On his way to prison more than seventy years ago, James Cannon said, “Nothing has ever changed my sense of proportion and of values… Neither persecution, nor poverty, nor hardship, nor the long days of internal struggles and factional quarrels that sear the souls of men in the political movement—none of that was able to change me or break me, because I never forgot what I started out to fight for. I kept undimmed my vision of the socialist future of mankind.” These are unabashedly heroic words. The fact that you have earned the right to say them as well is a tribute to you, a tribute to the kind of person you are and to the life you have led.
In the same speech, Cannon goes on to reassure his audience, “Our party is built on correct ideas and is therefore indestructible.” We lived to see a negative proof of that assertion. Our party destroyed itself because the leaders threw away its correct ideas and tore away the foundations on which it was built. As one of our political ancestors wrote, those were “the times that try men’s souls,” times that lasted several long years. Thomas Paine went on to write, “but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” May I amend these famous words to say that you deserve the love and thanks of your comrades?
Let’s remember that in the name of progress, with the claim of building a new International, our party began its slow descent into political suicide. In this unfolding crisis, people showed who they truly were. As Cannon said, “All people pay for their ideas what they think the ideas are worth.” Some did not understand and left the movement. Some understood and remained silent. Some sharpened the blade to sever the living roots of our revolutionary tradition.
You were different. You stood up and spoke up—again and again. You were among the first to uphold a revolutionary program, which has proven its worth at every juncture. Of course, you had help, first from Sylvia, who herself fought resolutely against the odds and would expect no less of you. Then you rallied others. Your stubborn sense of political principal and personal integrity was crucial in preserving and renewing the fundamental ideas of our movement.
As one of the comrades who was inspired by you, and who learned from you, let me join with others to express my gratitude to you.
I want you to know that whatever disagreements we ultimately had, I have very fond memories of working with you. Talking in your living room and kitchen with you and Sylvia and the other comrades, but especially you and Sylvia, will be something I will always remember as being one of the true rewards of being in the movement. It was an honor to learn from you and be part of the same group. While Trotskyism remains a small and beleaguered movement, I’m convinced that the work we did, some of it mistaken and some not, will stand on its own as a small contribution. All respect for your efforts over the many years and affection for how you welcomed me into the movement and treated me like a comrade. That’s something that will always stay with me.
I want you to know that I’ve always thought of you as one of the finest men I’ve ever met. Bright, fearless, patient, completely principled, and a pretty damned good pool player. I would have been happy to have had you for a father.
—Eugene Zuckoff, son of Berta Green Langston and Murray Zuckoff
What stands out in my mind is when you and others were picketing outside Abraham & Straus, in downtown Brooklyn. I didn’t see you at first and really wasn’t sure what was going on, but you spotted me. You explained they weren’t treating there workers right. That we had to do something to stop that. I was so impressed with your cause I walked with you. It will stay in my heart forever. But that was you and Sylvia, always reaching out to those being mistreated and taking advantage of. My Dad started a union in his company. The owner was terrible to his employees and my Dad like you was a brave warrior who stepped in to help. Unfortunately, the owner closed the company and my Dad was out of a job. He always said it was worth it. It’s people like you that give us the courage to stand up and fight. How good it must feel to know that your endeavors made a difference. All and all I am so proud of you. I love you and want you to get better and keep on kicking! I wish in was close by to just come and see you and give you a big hug!
—Eileen Barbieri, lifelong, childhood friend of Bonnie and Debbie Weinstein
He was a trailblazer for freedom, justice and equality for all. Nat was a supporter of Malcolm X. Nat organized Militant Labor Forums in New York City where Malcolm spoke, published Malcolm’s speeches in The Militant and encouraged the Socialist Workers Party to publish books of Malcolm’s speeches. During that time, most of the left considered Malcolm’s Black Nationalism to be reactionary, while Nat and the Socialist Workers Party saw Malcolm’s ideas to be revolutionary and in total opposition to both ruling political parties that were hell bent on keeping the oppressed, oppressed. Nat will be missed and his seeds of insight and wisdom will live forever. I highly appreciate what he stood for and the courage it took him to carry out his mission in really hostile times. The saga to a better world continues.
—Lorenzo “Cat” Johnson
I was saddened to learn about the death of revolutionary Nat Weinstein, a comrade for whom I had great admiration. I send you and all his family my condolences.
I would like to quote my grandfather, Leon Trotsky, who wrote the following:
“A life has not been lived in vain if it has been devoted to the greatest cause of humankind: building a better world—without oppression, exploitation or violence.”
Nat Weinstein’s life will forever remain a valuable example for new generations of revolutionary Marxists.
—Esteban Volkov, grandson of Leon Trotsky
On behalf of the Marxist Group of Namibia, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the Weinstein family at the passing away of comrade Nat Weinstein.
My political consciousness was influenced by Nat’s writings in the Socialist Action newspaper. I shared his insightful writings and, in particular, an article on Intelligence and Racism - with comrades in South Africa. I never met Sylvia Weinstein, but she educated many of us on aspects of feminism which we never considered and which changed our lives.
When I eventually met comrade Nat in the early 1990’s at the Newark Airport, he had a Socialist Action newspaper under his arm. He addressed a meeting of the Organization of South Africans/Azanians for Liberation Education in New York City and stayed with me and my partner, Imelda, in New Jersey.
We saw Nat again after the historic 1994 elections in Cape Town when he met with the Workers’ Organization for Socialist Action (WOSA). Imelda was the national administrator of WOSA at the time and introduced him to some trade unionists and activists in the Western Cape. With his very tight schedule, she squeezed a lunch in with him at our home and of course to introduce him to others who were eager to meet with a comrade from Socialist Action.
So, comrade Nat, although we did not often meet in person, we met very regularly in our minds. You represented the spirit of a revolutionary internationalism and what is certainly possible in terms of creating a profound humanism. Let your example not only inspire the American working class to rise up against the shackles of capitalism, but also the working classes everywhere. Rest assured that we will continue the socialist struggle that you gave your life to. Hamba Kahle, Rest in Peace, Comrade Nat.
—Shaun Whittaker, Marxist Group of Namibia and former member of the Workers’ Organization for Socialist Action (WOSA) of South Africa.
As one of the coordinators of the Lovell-Breitman tendency inside the SWP in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I began corresponding and talking with Nat soon after the SWP majority drafted its resolution on Cuba in 1979. Nat had warned us all that a new political line was being introduced in the party, not just for Cuba, but nationally and internationally—a line in opposition to our historic positions as the SWP and Fourth International.
Over the following four years, Nat played a pivotal role in organizing the fight inside the SWP to preserve our program against a liquidationist current aimed at destroying our Trotskyist—that is, our revolutionary-Marxist—continuity.
When I was asked by Nat in November 1983 to come out to San Francisco to edit the monthly newspaper of the newly formed Socialist Action, I accepted readily, understanding that ensuring our historic continuity required building an organization to preserve the cadre. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency, of which I was a member, did not see it this way and insisted that I could not go out to the West Coast, alleging longstanding and deep differences with Nat over what I considered to be secondary questions at the time.
Over the following seven years, I worked closely with Nat and learned to value his long experience in the working class movements, particularly in relation to the Black liberation struggle and the labor fightbacks at the time, especially the P-9 struggle.
But that is not all. I was honored to have been a neighbor and a regular invited guest at the dinner table of Nat and Silvia, where the stories of the old-timers, the political discussion, the humor, and the wonderful food made me appreciate even more deeply our revolutionary heritage. Seeing Nat interact with his children and grandchildren, to whom he was extremely devoted, also taught me the importance of not neglecting family in the name of the bigger struggle. For Nat and Silvia there was no contradiction; their family felt embraced by our movement.
Living in the belly of the beast, it is understandable that all the powers-that-be would want to prevent the working class in the United States from finding its way to the only solution to the impasse, wars, exploitation, starvation, oppression and more of the capitalist system in the epoch of imperialism: socialist revolution.
At a crucial moment in the history of our movement, where many of our opposition leaders inside the SWP wavered about what to do next to ensure the continuity of Trotskysim, Nat stood firm in defense of our continuity. His confidence in our program and in the revolutionary potential of the working class, provided the backbone needed to keep our program alive. Without Nat, that continuity in the heartland of imperialism could have easily been severed.
Future generations will need to know about this invaluable contribution by Nat Weinstein to the struggle for world socialist revolution, to the Fourth International.
I very much hope that all the letters that you have received, and all the statements made at the memorial meeting, combined with some of Nat’s key writings, will make it into a book for younger activists and future generations of revolutionists.
Nat Weinstein, Presente!