From the Shelf

The spring issue of Mosaic is less than the community has come to expect. Most of the articles are timely but all too predictable. Three of the four nonfiction pieces deal with race relations; the fourth is on Jews in the Soviet Union. Every issue of Mosaic ever published has probably had a similar article. More importantly, a certain dullness prevades the magazine. The prose stays consistently at a drab, B-level. Nothing sparkles, nothing excites between these grey covers.

The most interesting articles--"Leadership in Civil Rights" by Daniel J. Chasan and "The Negro Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement" by Archie Epps--are primarily documents in a social issue.

Chasan, now executive editor of this journal, is shallow and occasionally inaccurate, but he makes one good point. Chasan first presents a confusing and unconvincing philosophical discussion of his relation to the American Negro. He then abandons that tack and says that his growing antipathy to the Negro movement springs from the leadership's ignorance of "a responsibility of their own." He says the leadership has failed to bring about internal changes in the Negro community necessary for effective integration. "First," he writes, "there must be leaders who will encourage, even demand, constructive attitudes and actions completely apart from demonstrations and protests." It is a good point, but not an altogether fair one. Chasan does not give Negro leaders enough credit for the steps they have taken within communities.

"It won't do any good to eliminate segregation in housing if nobody wants to move out of the ghettoes," he writes; but in Boston last year there was an active project helping Negroes to move out of the ghettoes. He chastises Negroes for not stimulating in their children a desire to seek education, but he ignores the tutorial projects of the Northern Student Movement, and the activities of Negro churches and settlement houses.

Chasan's general position is typical of many whites whose support of the Negro movement has been undermined by irresponsible leadership. And it is precisely this reaction which Epps ignores when speaking favorable of the "radical Negro Revolution" in his article.


A prominent young Negro leader in the area, Epps criticizes the "conservative revolution" perpetrated by the traditional civil rights groups. He says the groups are bureaucratic, run by an elite, and immune to the interests of the lower classes. They espouse a "ritualistic liberalism," which gives most Negroes little comfort, and they are easily manipulated by white politicians.

On the other hand, he seems to approve of the "radical Negro Revolution" which "insists on the transfer of political and economic power" and believes in frequent, massive public demonstrations. This group--organized in the Freedom Now Party and the Black Muslims--are "race men." That is, they place a great emphasis on "negritude," or "the cultural and political expression of the personality of the Negro people." In general, Epps is setting the energy and boldness of the revolutionaries against the relatively conservative nature of the traditional groups.

What is happening, though, is that the revolutionaries are beginning to see demonstrations and public protest as ends in themselves. Epps admits that "confrontation of the black man with the white man" often becomes more important than the redress of a particular grievance. More explosive demonstrations will be needed to maintain the militancy of the revolutionaries. And when the stalled cars on the Long Island highways start backing up, the Negro cause will lose considerable support. It is here that Chasan's plea for responsible leadership is immediately relevant.

Mark L. Winer's report on the desegregation of Dallas is informative, colorless, and infuriating. He records the city's moral bankuptcy in having its desegregation campaign run by an advertising agency in order to preserve its "image." But if one is grateful for the description, he can only be puzzled by Winer's approval, in his last sentence, of Dallas' campaign.

The best thing in the magaine is Andreas Teuber's "a Poem," which reduces to rubble the pretensions of what someone once called the "crotch school" of Cambridge, writing. Chana Faerstein's translation of Itzik Manger's poem "Jephthah's Daughter" has moments of power. But the magazine still does not publish enough undergraduate writing.