16 May 2010

No Sheeples Here: BREAKING: A Socialist On The Supreme Court Bench?

No Sheeples Here: BREAKING: A Socialist On The Supreme Court Bench?

Erick Erickson of has discovered Elena Kagan’s April 15, 1981 senior thesis and it’s a deal breaker.

The 134-page typewritten document is an exploration of socialism in New York City from 1900 to 1933 entitled To The Final Conflict.

In the acknowledgments, Kagan writes, “The staff members of the Tamiment Institute greatly facilitated my research for this thesis, directing me to relevant collections and aiding me in all possible respects. Sean Wilentz painstakingly read each page of this thesis—occasionally two or three times. His comments and suggestions were invaluable; his encouragement was both needed and appreciated. Finally, I would like to thank my brother Marc, whose involvement in radical causes led me to explore the history of American radicalism in the hope of clarifying my own political ideas.” [Emphasis mine.]

The Tamiment Library is a research library at New York University that documents radical and left history, with strengths in the histories of communism, socialism, anarchism, the New Left, the Civil Rights Movement, and utopian experiments. The Robert F. Wagner Archives, which is also housed in Bobst Library at NYU, documents American labor history. Together the two units form an important center for scholarly research on labor and the left.

Sean Wilentz, the man Kagan profusely acknowledges in here thesis, earned his Ph.D. in 1980 at Yale University. His historical scholarship has focused on the importance of class and race in the early national period, especially in New York City. He is a long-time family friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

He appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on December 8, 1998 to argue against the Clinton impeachment. In his testimony, he warned House members that, if they voted for impeachment but were not convinced Clinton's offenses were impeachable, "history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness."

Wilentz is married to University of Chicago historian Christine Stansell.

The thesis documents the Socialist Party and labor unions in New York City but the telltale signs of Kagan’s political leanings are found in the final paragraph of the thesis’ conclusion:

“Through its own internal feuding, then, the SP exhausted itself. forever and further reduced labor radicalism in New York to the position of marginality and insignificance from which it has never recovered. The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America. Radicals have often succumbed to the devastating bane of sectarianism; it is easier, after all, to fight one's fellows than it is to battle an entrenched and powerful foe. Yet if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope.

Elena Kagan's Senior Thesis Princeton University

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