Thomas Barton Papers

1947-1978 (Bulk: 1960-1974)
7 boxes (2 linear ft.)
Call no.: MS 539
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In the early 1960s, Tom Barton (b. 1935) emerged as a leader in the Left-wing of the Young People's Socialist League, the national youth affiliate of the Socialist Party. Deeply committed to the civil rights and antiwar struggles and to revolutionary organizing, Barton operated in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York and was a delegate and National Secretary at the 1964 convention in which tensions within YPSL led to its dissolution.



A small, but rich collection, the Barton Papers provide a glimpse into the career of a long-time Socialist and activist. From Barton's entry into the Young People's Socialist League in the latest 1950s through his work with the Wildcat group in the early 1970s, the collection contains outstanding content on the civil rights and antiwar movements and the strategies for radical organizing. The collection is particularly rich on two periods of Barton's career -- his time in the YPSL and Student Peace Union (1960-1964) and in the Wildcat group (1968-1971) -- and particularly for the events surrounding the dissolution of YPSL in 1964, following a heated debate over whether to support Lyndon Johnson for president. The collection includes correspondence with other young radicals such as Martin Oppenheimer, Lyndon Henry, Juan McIver, and Joe Weiner.

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Background on Thomas Barton


An image of: YPSL logo

YPSL logo

A native of Indiana, Tom Barton (b. 1935) joined the Socialist Party (technically, the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation) in the late 1950s and its youth cadre, the Young People's Socialist League, one of the new generation of activists who reenergized the fractious Party and helped propel it into the struggle for civil rights and the peace movement. A third generation union activist, Barton's grandfather was a member of the International Workers of the World, an uncle helped form a UAW local in Wisconsin.

Affiliated with Student Peace Union, Barton traveled to Philadelphia in 1960 to help organize the peace movement in that city. His efforts soon bore fruit. Working with fellow Socialists Martin Oppenheimer (a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania) and Leo Kormis (a lab technician at Penn), he was influential in galvanizing local students to action, although their more orthodox Marxist perspectives sometimes sat uneasily with the New Left sensibilities of the Students for a Democratic Society and other groups. On the national stage, YPSL enjoyed considerable success in organizing the march for a nuclear test ban in Washington, D.C., in 1962, and they are credited with being the first left-oriented group to oppose U.S. military intervention in Vietnam.

With the Chicago Branch of YPSL in 1963, Barton gained increasing prominence. As an editor of Young Socialist Review and through his involvement in national committees, he was selected as a delegate to represent the Branch at the national YPSL Convention in 1964. The membership during that summer was badly divided in the stance the organization should take with respect to the upcoming presidential election, and particularly whether to support the candidacy of Lyndon Johnson. While Shachtman and Michael Harrington argued that the Socialist Party should realign to work with the Democratic Party and push them to the left, Barton became one of the leaders in the Left-wing faction of YPSL (along with Bob Brown, Marge Green, Walt Lively, Joe Weiner, and David Komatsu) opposing the realignment and favoring building a mass labor party. At the Convention, where he was listed as National Secretary, Barton was at the center of dispute between the Realignment, Left-wing, Third camp, Spartacists, and other camps. The events came to a head after a resolution was passed to suspend Socialist Party discipline over YPSL until the Party prevented its leaders from supporting Johnson and the Realignment (Right-wing) faction walked out. Although the Left-wing never formally split from the Party, the Party responded by suspending YPSL. The Left-wing itself split into factions and YPSL itself dissolved. Although reconstituted two years later, it did not regain the vibrancy it enjoyed during the early 1960s.

During the latter half of the 1960s, Barton continued in the revolutionary vein and as an active participant in the antiwar movement. At one time East Coast distributor of the antiwar Vietnam GI -- assisting in sending issues to Vietnam -- he was part of the Wildcat group that supported revolutionary organizing of the working class. Described by Barton's friend and fellow Wildcat Juan McIver as surviving "in a no-man's land between leftism and communism," the Wildcat was rooted in Chicago, Baltimore, and New York, and published Wildcat (later renamed The Spark), Wildcat Report (for New York), and Worker and Soldier. In Detroit, they built on widespread alienation among Black auto workers, attempting to coordinate with radical organizations such as the Dodge Revolutionary Workers Movement, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and Detroit Revolutionary Organizing Committee. One worker at Chrysler's Eldon Ave. gear and axle plant regarded the Wildcat people as "Old Left" and "so secretive they had crossed over into paranoia." (http://libcom.org/library/black-cats-white-cats-wildcats-martin-glaberman).

Working in the health industry and a shop Steward with Local 768, Heath Care Workers, AFSCME District Council 37, New York City, Barton has remained politically active. A member of the International Socialist Organization, he has taken part in anti-globalization protests in 2000 and has been active in opposition to the war and militarism, publishing GI Special (later Military Resistance) and Traveling Soldier. He assisted ex-Iraq GIs in organizing Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Scope of collection

A small, but rich collection, the Barton Papers provide a glimpse into the career of a long-time Socialist and activist. From Barton's entry into the Young People's Socialist League in the latest 1950s through his work with the Wildcat group in the early 1970s, the collection contains outstanding content on the civil rights and antiwar movements and the strategies for radical organizing. The collection is particularly rich on two periods of Barton's career -- his time in the YPSL and Student Peace Union (1960-1964) and in the Wildcat group (1968-1971) -- and particularly for the events surrounding the dissolution of YPSL in 1964, following a heated debate over whether to support Lyndon Johnson for president. The collection includes correspondence with other young radicals such as Martin Oppenheimer, Lyndon Henry, Juan McIver, and Joe Weiner.

Woven together, the YPSL files -- and particularly those for Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and Texas -- give a sense of YPSL's field work and the sometimes radically different approaches taken by the New Left and Old Left, and between the varied factions within each. The correspondence, reports, fliers, and other materials reflect deep seated tensions over ideology and tactics, as well as the assault on the left by the forces of authority, as the grappled with issues ranging from the war in Vietnam to the pervasiveness of racism and sexism, and international politics from Berlin to China and Cuba.

The tumultuous 1964 Convention that resulted in the suspension and dissolution of YPSL is well documented, given Barton's central involvement, and the files for the various branches of the League document the reaction around the country as news of the split spread. The YPSL Texas file with letters from Lyndon Henry and Doug Hainline is noteworthy for the clarity of analysis and candid discussions of YPSL's relations with SDS.

Other materials are bellwethers for the shifts in attitude within the movement and the increasing radicalization of some members. In November 1965, for example, Joe Verret wrote bitterly about pacifists: "Good God -- you know it and so does anyone else with serious intentions of defeating the imperialists -- the change to socialism -- the convulsion of property relations -- will never be accomplished on a world scale if we try tactics such as lying down in front of the tanks of bourgeoisie . . . are we revolutionaries or are we just interested in having a nice sized organization?" (Joe Verret, Nov. 26, 1965)

The most extensive, densest, and perhaps richest correspondence in the collection -- five folders worth -- comes from Juan McIver, a fellow Wildcat and International Socialist. Sometimes signing himself Frank (and once Igor), McIver's letters are remarkably intense and detailed discussions of Socialist politics, history, the struggle of the present day, revolutionary organizing, the international scene, his travels in Europe and England, and his evolving views on Socialism and the struggle to create a working class movement. McIver eventually broke with Leninism-Trotskyism. Some of Barton's letters to McIver are included.

About one third of the collection consists of a remarkable group of materials relating to the Wildcat, and particularly Wildcat Detroit. Mostly signed pseudonymously, the letters and reports analyze efforts to engage in revolutionary organizing of the working class, primarily in the automotive industry. Among other highlights is an essay (filed under "Wildcat: Trade unions and revolutionary organizing") discussing tactics in navigating racism, suspicion of fellow works, and the fight against capitalism. In a similar vein, the unidentified author of "Towards a Revolutionary Newspaper" laments the lack of a publication that reflects their point of view and offers thoughts on how better to reach workers:

"Initially we planned, and still plan to use locally produced factory bulletins, distributed free at the plant gates. As the basic tool of our organizing, recruiting, and propaganda work. The format would be the simplest and most economical; and 8 1/2 x 13 sheet mimeoed or printed on two sides; one side being a major political article by members of our organizing group, the other side being written entirely by people employed at the plant (ourselves and others)..."

The Wildcat files also contain materials relating to Revolutionary Union Movement groups, such as DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) and ELDRUM (Eldon Revolutionary Union Movement), which sought to organize Black workers and which joined forces to form the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Among the printed materials are several copies of Wildcat and its successor The Spark, as well as a valuable series of highly ephemeral newsletters from Revolutionary Union Movements.

Inventory

Socialist Party


Socialist Party of Massachusetts Platform and Candidates
1914, 1970
Box 3: 1
Socialist Party, Philadelphia Local
1949-1964
Box 4: 1
Socialist Labor Party
1956-1963
Box 3: 2
Socialist Party: Natural Action Committee
1958/1964
Box 3: 3
Socialist Party Miscellaneous
1958-1963
Box 3: 4
Socialist Party Social Democratic Convention
1959-1962
Box 7: 2
Socialist Youth Union
1959-1963
Box 3: 5
Socialism and Peace
1961/1962
Box 3: 7
Socialist Literature and Old Letters
1961-1965
Box 3: 12
Socialist Party: Peace Committee
1962
Box 5: 2
Turn Towards Peace
1962
Box 5: 3
Socialism Reading Lists
ca.1962
Box 3: 13
Socialist Party Civil Rights
1963
Box 3: 14
Socialist Party
1963-1969
Box 3: 15
Socialist Party- Miscellaneous
1964
Box 3: 17
Socialist Party- Miscellaneous
1964
Box 3: 18
Socialist Party- Miscellaneous
1965-1966
Box 3: 20
What is Marxism?
ca.1965
Box 4: 2
International Socialist Organization (ISO) Correspondence
1995-2004
Box 5: 4
ISO Events
1995-2004
Box 7: 14
ISO New York City District
1995-2005
Box 5: 5
ISO North Branch
1996-1997
Box 5: 6
Socialist Worker: Selling
1966
Box 3: 25
ISO Internal Bulletin, No. 1, 2, 5, 6
1996
Box 5: 7
ISO Notes
1996-2001
Box 5: 8
Socialist Summer School
1997
Box 5: 10
International Socialist League: UPS Strike
1997
Box 3: 27
ISO- The New School
1997-1998
Box 5: 13
ISO- Harlem and Village Branch
1997-2004
Box 5: 14
Socialist Worker, no. 289, 462, 474, 522, 527
1998-2009
Box 5: 15
ISO- Steering Committee
2000-2005
Box 5: 16
ISO- Members Handbook
2001
Box 7: 15
ISO Notes
2004
Box 5: 18
ISO Proposed Agenda
2005-2007
Box 7: 16

Inventory

Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL)


YPSL
1957
Box 6: 1
YPSL: Chicago Illinois
1957-1964
Box 7: 1
YPSL: National Action Committee
1958
Box 6: 2
YPSL and Young Socialist League Unity Convention
1958
Box 6: 3
YPSL: Political History
1958-1962
Box 6: 4
YPSL: Relevance of Hope
ca.1959
Box 6: 5
YPSL: Illinois
1960-1964
Box 7: 3
YPSL: Financial
1960-1964
Box 7: 4
YPSL: Conferences and Publications
1960-1964
Box 7: 5
YPSL: New York Chapter Flyer
1961-1962
Box 6: 6
YPSL
1961-1964
Box 6: 7
YPSL New York City
1961-1964
Box 6: 8
YPSL Revolution
1961-1966
Box 6: 9
YPSL Pennsylvania
1962-1964
Box 6: 10
YPSL Publications
1962-2007
Box 7: 6
YPSL Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Branch Investigation
1963
Box 6: 11
YPSL Texas
1963-1964
Box 6: 12
YPSL California
1963-1964
Box 7: 7
YPSL National Action Committee
1963-1965
Box 7: 8
YPSL Florida
1964
Box 7: 9
YPSL Conventions
1964
Box 7: 10
YPSL Membership
1964
Box 7: 11
YPSL Cleveland
1964
Box 6: 13
YPSL Columbia, MO
1964
Box 6: 14
YPSL Split with Socialist Party
1964
Box 6: 15
YPSL Wisconsin
1964
Box 6: 17
YPSL Washington
1964
Box 6: 18
YPSL Washington DC
1964
Box 6: 19
YPSL Virginia
1964
Box 6: 20
YPSL Student Union
1964
Box 6: 21
YPSL: Tacoma, Washington
1964-1965
Box 7: 12
YPSL Missouri and New Jersey
1964-1965
Box 6: 22

Inventory

Correspondence


Verret, Joseph S.
1961-1963
Box 4: 5
General Correspondence
1974, 2006, 2008
Box 2: 3
Nader, Ralph
1994-2004
Box 3: 26
Malloy, Richard
1996-1997
Box 1: 8
General Correspondence
1997/1999
Box 2: 5
Baez, Anthony
05/1998
Box 1: 12
General Correspondence
2001-2002
Box 2: 6
Watts, Max
2003
Box 1: 22
Binh, Pham
2003, 2004, 2011
Box 1: 23
General Correspondence
2003-2006
Box 2: 9
Traveling Soldier: Correspondence
2003-2006
Box 1: 24
Veterans for Peace: Correspondence
2003-2009
Box 1: 27
Bush, George
2004
Box 1: 28
Howard, Stanley
2004, 2005
Box 1: 34
Howard, Stanley
2006
Box 1: 53
Howard Stanley
2007, 2008
Box 1: 57
General Correspondence
2007-2013
Box 1: 60
Howard, Stanley
2009-2010
Box 1: 75
Howard, Stanley
2011, 2012, 2013
Box 1: 86
Howard, Stanley
2014, 2015
Box 1: 87

Inventory

Military Project


Military Project Organizing Manual
ca.2001/2005
Box 1: 19
Military Project Minutes
2005-2007
Box 1: 46
Military Project: Correspondence
2005-2009
Box 1: 47
Military Project: Documents
2006-2007
Box 1: 48
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agendas
2006 Jan-June
Box 1: 49
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agendas
2006 July-Dec
Box 1: 50
Military Project Corps
2007
Box 1: 61
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agendas
2007 July-Dec
Box 1: 62
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2007 Jan-June
Box 1: 63
Military Project: Sign Up to do Outreach to Troops
ca.2007
Box 1: 64
Military Project and Resistance: Sign up to Receive
ca.2007/2009
Box 1: 65
Military Project and Resistance: Organizer’s Conference
2008-2009
Box 1: 66
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2008 Jan June
Box 1: 69
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2008 July Dec
Box 1: 70
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2009 Sep Dec
Box 1: 71
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2009 May Aug
Box 1: 72
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2009 Jan April
Box 1: 73
Military Project: Fundraising
2009-2010
Box 1: 79
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2010
Box 1: 80
Military Resistance: Clearing the Decks
2010 Jan 17
Box 1: 81
Military Project and Resistance: Proposed Agenda
2011
Box 1: 84

Inventory

Wildcat


Wildcat: Detroit Michigan
1968-1969
Box 4: 6
Wildcat: Press Discussion
1969
Box 4: 8
Wildcat: Articles
ca.1969
Box 4: 9
Wildcat: Baltimore, MD and Buffalo, NY
ca.1969
Box 4: 10
Wildcat Report
1970
Box 4: 11
Wildcat Correspondence and Miscellaneous
1970
Box 4: 12
Wildcat Newsletters
1970-1972
Box 4: 13
Work and Soldier: Incorporating Wildcat Report and Wildcat
1970-1971
Box 4: 14
Wildcat Newsletters
1970
Box 4: 15

Inventory

Publications


Advocate, Volume 8, no. 1
1966
Box 1: 1
Mental Health Statistical Note, no. 179-184
1986-1987
Box 1: 3
Photocopied Clippings
1995, 2004, 2006
Box 1: 4
Clippings
1995/2007
Box 1: 5
Labor Militant, Issue 47
1996
Box 1: 6
Hard Hat Construction Magazine, Vol. 4, Number 1-2, Volume 5, Volume 2
1997-1998
Box 1: 11
Clippings
1998/2007
Box 1: 14
Egg cracker and Prosthesis
ca.2000-2010
Box 1: 15
Intelligence Report, Issue 101
2001
Box 1: 17
Mutiny: Revolution History, Volume 8, Number 2
ca.2002
Box 1: 20
Socialist Soldier: Know Your Rights
2003
Box 1: 21
Traveling Soldier, issue number 1, 10-13, 15, 18-20
2003-2008
Box 1: 26
New York City Working People’s Voice, Vol. 2, No. 1
June 2004
Box 1: 31
Protest Documentation
2004-2007
Box 1: 37
National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws
2004-2010
Box 1: 38
The Veteran, Vol. 35, No. 2
2005
Box 1: 41
NYCLU News, vol. LIII, no. 2; vol. LIIII, no. 1
2005-2006
Box 1: 44
The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLII, no. 69
20-21 Sept. 2008
Box 1: 68
Traveling Soldier, issues number 21, 22, 24-27, 29, 32, 33
2009-2010
Box 1: 74
Resist
2009
Box 1: 76
The Veteran, Vol. 39, No. 2
2009
Box 1: 78
The Spark, issues no. 863, 872, 875, 877, 881-883
2010-2011
Box 1: 83
The Spark, issues no. 884, 886, 887, 905, 906, 910
2011-2012
Box 1: 85

Inventory

Veterans for Peace


Veterans for Peace: Pamphlets and Flyers
1967-2007
Box 1: 2
Veterans For Peace: New York Roster
2004
Box 1: 30
Veterans for Peace: Reports and Newsletters
2004
Box 1: 32
Veterans for Peace: Walkin’ to New Orleans
2006 April
Box 1: 51
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
2006-2010
Box 1: 55
Iraq Veterans Against the War
2006-2014
Box 1: 56
Veterans for Peace: Life on the Ledge
2008 Nov
Box 1: 67
Veterans for Peace: The President’s Message
2010 Fall
Box 1: 82

Inventory

Tom’s Europe Report
1959 Aug 28
Box 5: 1
Student Peace Union
1960/1962
Box 3: 6
University of Chicago Campus Radical Organizations
1960-1965
Box 4: 3
Student Peace Union, University of Pennsylvania
1961-1963
Box 4: 4
Flyers for Protest Events
1961, 2006, 2009
Box 2: 1
Student Civil Rights Coordinating Committee
1961-1962
Box 3: 8
Peace Action Center
1961-1962
Box 3: 9
Philadelphia Peace March
1961-1962
Box 3: 10
Peace News Wire
1961-1962
Box 3: 11
Student Peace Union
1963-1964
Box 3: 16
Youth for Nuclear Disarmament
1964
Box 6: 16
Philadelphia
1964-1966
Box 3: 19
San Francisco (Epsteiner)
1965
Box 3: 21
Philadelphia Article
1965
Box 3: 22
Philadelphia, American Socialist Organization Activities
1965
Box 3: 23
St. Nich and Miscellaneous
1966-1969
Box 3: 24
Vietnam GI and Vietnam GI: Stateside Edition
1968, 1969
Box 4: 7
Workers Special News
ca.1970
Box 7: 13
Flyers for Protest events
1985, 1998, 2006
Box 2: 4
Campus Antiwar Network
1996
Box 1: 7
League for the Revolutionary Party
1996-1999
Box 1: 9
Columbia Spectator, Vol. CXX, No. 49, 53, 54
1996
Box 5: 9
Pre Convention Bulletin No. 1, 3
1997, 1999
Box 5: 11
Columbia Daily Spectator, Vol. CXXI, No. 96, 100, 109
1997
Box 5: 12
Flyers for Protest Events
1997, 1998, 2003
Box 1: 10
District Council 37
1998/2001
Box 1: 13
National Action Network
2001
Box 1: 16
Flyers for Protest Events
2001-2011
Box 1: 18
Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleums
2002
Box 1: 19
Flyers for Protest events
2002-2011
Box 2: 7
Flyers for protest events
2003, 2004, 2006
Box 2: 8
New York City Labor Against the War
2003-2006
Box 1: 25
Covert Action Quarterly
2004
Box 1: 29
Pre-Convention Bulletin, No. 3-4
2004
Box 5: 17
Solidarity News
2004
Box 1: 33
Prison Legal News
2004-2006
Box 1: 35
American Civil Liberties Union
2004-2008
Box 1: 36
Citizen Soldier
2004-2011
Box 1: 39
Republican National Committee
ca.2004
Box 1: 40
Flyers for protest events
2005, 2006, 2007
Box 2: 9
Service members Legal Defense Network
2005-2009
Box 1: 42
Brooklyn for Peace
2005, 2010
Box 1: 43
War Resisters League
2005-2011
Box 1: 45
Sir No Sir!
2006
Box 1: 52
Directions to Events
2006, 2007
Box 1: 54
United Farm Workers
2007-2008
Box 1: 58
Quaker House
2007-2012
Box 1: 59

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Provenance

Acquired from Eugene Povirk, February 2008.

Processing Information

Processed by Dex Haven, October 2010.

Bibliography

Georgakas, Dan and Marvin Surkin, Detroit: I do Mind Dying (N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1975)

Lyons, Paul, The People of This Generation: The Rise and Fall of the New Left in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania, 2003) (N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1975)

See the Detroit Revolutionary Movements Collection, Walter Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Language:

English

Copyright and Use (More information )

Cite as: Thomas Barton Papers (MS 539). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms

Subjects

  • Antiwar movement.
  • Civil rights movement.
  • Communists.
  • Revolutionaries.
  • Socialist Party of the United States of America.
  • Socialists.
  • Student Peace Union.
  • Students for a Democratic Society.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975.
  • Wildcat.
  • Young People's Socialist League.

Contributors

  • Barton, Thomas. [main entry]
  • Barton, Thomas.
  • Gilbert, Carl.
  • Henry, Lyndon.
  • MacFadyen, Gavin.
  • McIver, Juan.
  • McKelvey, Donald.
  • Stanley, Howard.
  • Oppenheimer, Martin.
  • Shatkin, Joan.
  • Shatkin, Norm.
  • Verret, Joe.
  • Weiner, Joe.

Genres and formats

  • Fliers.
  • Newsletters.
  • Photographs.

Link to similar SCUA collections