Bert Cochran Papers
Language of Materials
Bert Cochran (1916-1984) was a Trotskyist active in the Communist League of America (1934), the Workers Party of the United States (1935-37), in the Appeal Group within the Socialist Party, and in the automobile industry (1930s-40s), first in Cleveland within the Mechanics Educational Society of America, then in Detroit as head of the Socialist Workers Party Auto Fraction and as an activist in the United Automobile Workers of America. He left/was expelled from the SWP in 1954 for his leading role in the "Cochran-Clarke" faction, then helped found the magazine The American Socialist(1954-1959), and subsequently wrote seven books that covered labor and economics, and current domestic and international affairs. The collection contains correspondence, minutes, and reports relating to his labor and political activities, typescripts of speeches on various topics, and an (incomplete) untitled manuscript, a Marxist history of warfare and society.
Bert Cochran (Dec 25, 1916 - Jun 4, 1984), an American Trotskyist, also known by the pseudonym, E. R. Frank, was born Alexander Goldfarb in Warsaw, Poland. He joined the Communist League of America in 1934, was a member of the American Workers Party (1935-1937), was a district organizer for the Cleveland district of the Mechanics Educational Society of America (MESA) in 1936-37 and was a member of the Appeal Group (within the Socialist Party), was a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) from its inception in 1938, serving on its National Committee for many years and, based in Detroit, was a leading figure in the SWP's work in organizing auto workers, serving as chair of the SWP's Auto Fraction, and was an activist in the United Automobile Workers of America.
He left/was expelled from the SWP in 1954 for his leading role in the "Cochran-Clarke" faction, which held dissenting views on the appropriate relationship to Stalinism, and in particular to Communist Party labor- movement activism and activists. Along with fellow ex-SWP members George Clarke and Harry Braverman, he founded the magazine The American Socialist(1954-1959). In 1949 he met his companion Cynthia Copeland Cochran (who is also the sister of Vince Copeland, also a Trotskyist activist and long-time leading figure in the Workers World Party).
Cochran wrote seven books. Two were on the labor movement: American Labor at Midpassage(1959) and Labor and Communism: The Conflict that Shaped American Unions(1977). The others were: The Cross of the Moment(1961), The War System(1965), AdlaiStevenson: Patrician among the Politicians(1969), Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidency(1973), and Welfare Capitalism--and After(1984).
Within each series, the folders are arranged chronologically.
Organized into three series:
- 1. Labor and Political Activities
- 2. Unpublished Writings.
- 3. Addendum
Scope and Content Note
This collection is organized into two series: 1. Labor and Political Activities, and 2. Unpublished Writings. The collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, and minutes, reports, and other internal documents, principally from the Socialist Workers Party, and from the United Automobile Workers union. In addition to Cochran (often as E. R. Frank, or as "Burt" Cochran), notable correspondents and authors include George F. Addes, James Burnham, James Cannon, George Clarke, Farrell Dobbs, Vincent R. Dunne, Jules Geller, Rose Karsner, Homer Martin, Felix Morrow, A.J. Muste, Max Shachtman, Arne Swabeck, and Natalia Trotsky. There are also letters from SWP and UAW activists.
In the first series, the American Workers Party file (1935-36) contains discussion of the political and tactical issues involved in the "French Turn" (the mass entry of individual Trotskyists into the Socialist Party, so called after the tactic used in France). The bulk of the series provides concerns the SWP's activity within the automobile industry and the UAW, and the debates within the SWP on these matters. The documentation is most extensive for the years through 1943. There are lengthy analytical letters, confidential reports, club and auto fraction meeting minutes, leaflets and flyers distributed to the rank and file, and some UAW correspondence, minutes and other internal documents. Issues/events covered include: SWP internal debates on automobile industry and general labor union policy, UAW factionalism, 1937-39, and the SWP's initial support for President Homer Martin's faction, organizing auto workers, the conditions and status of auto industry workers employed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and responses to labor measures adopted by the U.S. government during World War II.
There are also numerous reports and statements on the international political and military situation during World War II, two letters from/regarding the (Trotskyist) Internationale Kommunisten Deutschlands (International Communist Party of Germany), and a copy of a 1944 letter from Natalia Trotsky relating to the nature of the Soviet Union. The post-World War II files contain reports and speeches and focus on national and international politics, notably Poland, Korea, and for Yugoslavia, a report from an SWP member who had visited Belgrade ca.1950. There is detailed discussion from 1945-46 of the political differences between the SWP majority and the Morrison (nee Albert Goldman) / Felix Morrow minority. There are also typescripts of several of Cochran's speeches from the 1950s on U.S. and international affairs.
Series two contains portions of two unpublished (and untitled and undated) manuscripts. The first is a partial manuscript (some 450 pp.), an explicitly Marxist study of warfare in human history that may have been written in the years preceding Cochran's study of post-World War II world politics and military policy, The War System(Macmillan, 1965). The second consists of one chapter, titled "Workers and Intellectuals" (ca.1978), from an untitled work.
Seeries three (unprocessed) contains correspondence, reports, manuscripts and clippings, most from the end of World War II through 1954, with a few earlier items. Major topics are internal debates within the Socialist Workers Party in the 1950s, including in regard to the "Pabloist" tendency, and the post-War labor movement. Among the manuscripts are several chapters from an untitled work by Cochran.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials is this collection created by Bert Cochran was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date; Bert Cochran Papers; TAM 205; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Materials were found in repository; provenance is unknown but were likely donated by Cynthia Copeland Cochran in 1998. The accession number associated with these materials is 1998.004.