- Co-founder and longtime co-editor of the tax-exempt Marxian “independent socialist” magazine Monthly Review and of Monthly Review Press
- Taught at “radical progressive” City and Country School in Greenwich Village, New York
- Headed Columbia University’s “experiment in progressive higher education”
- Was labor editor of radical newspaper PM
- Was chief propagandist for radical CIO’s National Maritime Union and a supporter of Marxist longshoreman union boss Harry Bridges
- Repeatedly visited Cuba to give support to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara
Leo Huberman was a Marxist author and the co-founder (with Paul Sweezy) and longtime editor of the Marxian “independent socialist” magazine Monthly Review. Huberman and Sweezy were “two old-line, pro-Soviet Marxists,” wrote former Marxist Ronald Radosh. In his 2001 book Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, Radosh elaborated that Huberman and Sweezy called themselves “independent socialists,” only because they “had minor differences with the tactics and organizational demands of the official American Communist Party.”
Huberman was born in Newark, New Jersey in October 1903, the tenth of eleven children whose mother and father he once described as “worker intellectuals.” He earned a teaching credential from Newark State Normal School, wed in 1925, and graduated the following year from New York University.
In 1926 Huberman moved to New York City to teach at the private, experimental City and Country School in Greenwich Village. This school, he wrote, “was at the heart of the burgeoning radical progressive education movement.”
In 1932 Huberman authored a history of the United States from a Marxist proletarian perspective titled We The People. He traveled to England to do research for a history of the world at the Fabian socialist London School of Economics, in 1936 writing Man’s Worldly Goods: The Story of The Wealth of Nations, which sold half a million copies. Both volumes, wrote John J. Simon in the Marxian magazine Monthly Review, “became standard works for the radical education of workers in the growing socialist, communist, and labor movements in the United States and abroad.”
In 1938 Huberman published The Labor Spy Racket, described by Simon as “a biting investigative expose of the illegal and often bloody techniques used by corporate employers and their goons against the militant unions of the 1930s.”
In 1938-39 Huberman worked as Chairman of the Department of Social Science, New College at Columbia University. This was, as he described it, Columbia’s “experiment in progressive higher education.”
In 1940 Huberman published American, Incorporated, a short economic history of the United States from a Marxist perspective.
Huberman worked as associate editor of Scholastic Magazine and as labor editor of the non-commercial leftwing daily newspaper PM.
In 1941 he took a job as a columnist for U.S. Week.
From 1942 to 1945 Huberman was Director of the Department of Public Relations for the National Maritime Union (NMU) of the radical Congress of Industrial Organizations (the CIO, now merged into the AFL-CIO).
“NMU’s apparatus includes some of the slickest trade union literature in the world,” reported Time Magazine, “most of it the world of Leo Huberman. Members are laboriously trained [at the union’s school] in procedures. Skippers have learned to respect and fear the shipboard committees who handle seamen’s beefs.”
Huberman created the union slogan “Every Ship a School” and created propaganda to teach sailors Communism.
“During the long, monotonous -- but very dangerous -- voyages through U-boat infested waters during the Second World War,” wrote John J. Simon, “on-board libraries were used by sailors to teach each other the history of worker’s struggles, Marxism, and socialism as well as the great literary classics.”
An ardent left pamphleteer, Huberman churned out propaganda such as Storm Over Bridges, a defense of Australian-born longshore union boss Harry Bridges, who was secretly a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Another example of Huberman propaganda was the pro-union tract The Truth About Unions (1946).
In 1948 Huberman was deeply involved in the Progressive Party presidential campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former Vice President Henry Wallace, a losing campaign that was controlled by the Communist Party and whose purpose was to stop Truman’s “cold war” against Joseph Stalin’s expanding empire.
Following Wallace’s defeat, Huberman became founding co-editor of Monthly Review, which became Maoist in the late 1950s during the Sino-Soviet split. Originaly it was intended to be a non-Party rallying point for fellow Marxists. Friends from the Wallace campaign, including journalist co-editor Paul Sweezy, who had been fired from Harvard for his Communist beliefs and financial benefactor F.O. Matthieson, helped launch the magazine.
In 1952 Huberman and Sweezy created Monthly Review Press, which has become one of America’s largest publishers of Marxist books and authors.
In 1953 Huberman was called to testify as a hostile witness before the committee chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin). His testimony was published in the August 1953 issue of Monthly Review.
In 1959 and 1960 Sweezy and Huberman visited Cuba, touring the island with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Soon thereafter Monthly Review Press published the Sweezy and Huberman encomium to Castro’s emerging regime, Cuba: Anatomy of a Revolution. In 1961 Monthly Review Press published Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare; in 1963 The United States, Cuba and Castro by Marxoid historian William Appleman Williams; and in 1968 Socialism in Cuba and Guevara’s Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War.
Leo Huberman died on November 9, 1968. He was replaced as Monthly Review’s co-editor by Harry Magdoff, a Marxist economist who had run the Current Business Analysis Division in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s and Harry Truman’s Department of Commerce. When the Soviet archives were opened and the Venona transcripts released, Magdoff was identified as a Soviet spy.