George Breitman Papers
Language of Materials
George Breitman (1916-1986) was a Trotskyist and a founding member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). He edited The Militant newspaper and served in World War II. In the 1960s, Breitman assumed responsibility for the SWP's Pathfinder Press, edited Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1929-1940, and wrote Malcolm X Speaks (1965). The George Breitman Papers contain personal files, correspondence, files of the Socialist Workers Party and other socialist organizations, written works, audio recordings of events and lectures, and photographs. The materials portay Breitman's life and work, including scholarly work and activism relating to U.S. socialism, Trotskyism, Malcolm X, and the Black Power and Civil Rights movements.
George Breitman (1916-1986) was born in a working-class neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey in 1916. After graduating from high school, Breitman found work in the Civilian Conservation Corps and later in the Works Progress Administration. By 1935, he had joined the Trotskyist movement as a member of the Spartacus Youth League and then as a member of the Workers Party. He also joined the New Jersey branch of the Workers Alliance of America, an organization that fought for relief during the Great Depression.
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was founded in 1938 and Breitman was a founding member. In 1941, Breitman assumed editorship of the SWP's weekly newspaper, The Militant. Drafted and sent to France in 1943, he contacted a number of European Trotskyists and helped rebuild the war-battered Fourth International. After his return to the United States, he became editor of The Militant in the late 1940s and early 1950s. From the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, Breitman worked as a proofreader and was a member of the International Typographical Union. In this period he was also the leader of the Detroit branch of the SWP. With his wife Dorothea, and Frank and Sarah Lovell, he initiated the Friday Night Socialist Forum (later called the Militant Forum), a weekly series that attracted a broad range of activists from the labor, left, student and African American movements. Through this period, Breitman used several pseudonyms, including Albert Parker, Philip Blake, Anthony Massini, John F. Petrone, and Chester Hofla. Returning to New York in the late 1960s, Breitman assumed responsibility for the SWP's Pathfinder Press. He edited the 14-volume Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1929-1940 (1969-1979), worked on various collections of the writings of James P. Cannon, and edited Malcolm X Speaks (1965). In the course of these activities Breitman corresponded with scholars and added to his collection of Trotskyist documentation.
In the late 1970s Breitman opposed the growing trend among the SWP leadership toward what he viewed as a politics focused on Castro's leadership of the Cuban Communist Party. Among the hundreds expelled from the SWP in the early 1980s, he played a leading role in establishing the Fourth Internationalist Tendency, which sought to unify U.S. supporters of the Fourth International. Breitman died of a heart attack in 1986.
The Papers are organized into seven series, with two further divided into subseries and subsubseries:
Series I: Biographical Materials
Series II: Correspondence
Series III: Political Organizations and Activities
Subseries A: Socialist Workers Party
Subsubseries 1. General records and activities
Subsubseries 2. Educational Activities
Subsubseries 3. Publications Committee
Subsubseries 4. FBI Files - General
Subsubseries 5. FBI Files - James Kutcher
Subseries B. Other Trotskyist Organizations
Series IV: Writings, Lectures, and Interviews
Subseries A: Writings, General
Subseries B: Socialist Workers Party History
Subseries C: Malcolm X
Subseries D: African Americans
Subseries E: James P. Cannon
Subseries F: Leon Trotsky
Subseries G: Carl Skoglund
Subseries H: Alan Wald correspondence
Subseries I: Louis Sinclair Correspondence
Subseries J: General Correspondence
Subseries K: Writings by Others
Series V: Lists and Indexes
Series VI: Addendum
Series VII: Photographs
Scope and Content Note
The George Breitman Papers (1919-1989) contain personal files, correspondence, files of the Socialist Workers Party and other political organizations, published and unpublished writings, audio recordings of events and lectures, and photographs. The materials portay Breitman's life and work, including scholarly work and activism relating to socialist movements, Trotskyism, Malcolm X, and the Black Power and Civil Rights movements.
The personal files in this collection include documents related to Breitman's service in World War II and his involvement in the Workers Alliance of America, an autobiographical sketch, and recordings of memorial services.
A significant amount of the materials in the collection relate to Breitman's involvement and later expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party, including correspondence, committee meeting minutes, proceedings, reports, memos, pre-convention and other discussion, FOIA files, position papers, and materials documenting the activities of the organization. Breitman was also affiliated with the Fourth Internationalist Tendency and the Communist League of America. Audio recordings portray meeting proceedings as well as lectures on the history of the Socialist Workers Party and other organizations.
Breitman wrote and edited articles and manuscripts on topics such as Malcolm X, the Black Power and Civil Rights movements, socialist movements, and Trotskyism. This collection includes written correspondence with scholars and activists, published and unpublished typescripts, transcripts of speeches and lectures, lists of articles in Trotskyist periodicals, and audio recordings of lectures, interviews, and events. Written work and audio recordings in this collection document the activism of Malcolm X, the Black Liberation movements of the late 1950s - early 1970s, and Trotskyism.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials in this collection created by George Breitman are held by Steven Bloom and Naomi Allen. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
Identification of item, date; George Breitman Papers; TAM 169; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Dorothy Breitman in 1995. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 1992.006, 1992.010, 1992.013, and NPA.2001.024. A second accession was donated in 1997.
Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures
Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact [Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, email@example.com, 212-998-2596] with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.
About this Guide
Photographs were separated from this collection during initial processing and were established as a separate collection, the George Breitman Photographs (PHOTOS 142). In 2013, the photograph collection was reincorporated into the George Breitman Papers as Series VII. In 2013, Series VI was re-foldered and described on the box level.
Audio materials were separated from this collection during initial processing and were established as a separate collection, the George Breitman Oral History Collection (OH 038). In 2023, the 172 audiotapes were reincorporated into the George Breitman Papers by an archivist and arranged and described at file level. As of 2023, the George Breitman Oral History Collection (OH 038) no longer exists.