Monday, January 23, 2006

Death of "The New Leader"

This is a memorial for The New Leader, a magazine that is about to produce its final issue after eight decades of publication. The New York Times has described The New Leader as "either the most influential of the little-known magazines or the least well-known of the influential ones."

It was an opinion magazine edited along the lines of The New Republic, National Review,The Nation and Weekly Standard. It was founded as a socialist organ and eventually became an aggressively anti-Communist liberal publication. After the defeat of Communism, it drifted into what could best be described as right-wing liberalism. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, in the current political climate ideological labels have become increasingly difficult to define.

Over the years The New Leader published the work of such political and literary celebrities as George Orwell, Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Schlesinger, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, George F. Kennan, Hubert H. Humphrey, Bertrand Russell, Willy Brandt, Reinhold Niebuhr, and many other well-known persons.

I am writing this memorial because I also have had the honor of being published in The New Leader. My piece, a free-lance article entitled "Organized Labor in Africa," appeared in 1965. I was then a Washington correspondent for the Newhouse Newspaper chain, covering organized labor and industrial affairs.

At that time, many African countries were gaining independence from their British and French colonial rulers. In most cases, local labor union leaders were the key figures in the struggles for independence. Virtually every one of them became heads of state in their newly independent nations. The thrust of my article was that,in an extraordinary irony, most of the former union leaders quickly installed totalitarian regimes and banned the existence of labor unions.

It was to combat such social and political injustices in both the U.S. and abroad that gave The New Leader its reason to exist.

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