Zellig Harris and The People
A small, little-known group, "The People," also benefited from
Harris's involvement. My knowledge of it comes solely from a single,
unpublished, typed document a kind of manifesto sent to
me by Norman Epstein. Harris may well be its author. The People,
according to the first paragraph of the document,
The document makes reference to historical-materialist works such as those of Erich Fromm (of the Frankfurt School) and Arthur Rosenberg, as well as works of American cultural anthropology, modern natural sciences, and mathematical logic. All of this points to a vital connection between Harris and The People, since Harris also combined his interest in Rosenberg's anti-Bolshevik Marxism with a commitment to Fromm's psychoanalytic-Marxist work.
The People had no dogma, Marxist or otherwise, and members pulled together as a "way of resisting the present social order, of helping spread the resistance to it." They did not consider themselves working-class leaders, although they did agree that revolution or "collapse" were the only means of ending present power relations. Finally, their route to social change lay in the
compiling of such information about the economy and culture and the control methods and development of the ruling class, and about the change of technology, social relations, working-class attitudes, etc., as would be useful to the political understanding and action of an increasingly restive working-class; the reduction of the methods of science to a form that will be graspable and usable by workers in the understanding and control of their social and natural environment; the development of the theory and prediction of social change; and the dissemination and elaboration of scientifically valid social-political discussion among those who may be expected to act, in terms of their position and times, in the direction of a free, egalitarian, classless society.
The tenets and values upheld by Chomsky in his work relate strongly to
those set forth here either by Harris or his close associates in The
People. Chomsky resists the suggestion that he was influenced by
Frankfurt School members such as Adorno, Fromm, Horkheimer, Lowenthal,
or Marcuse. But the importance of such figures to Zellig Harris, and
by extension to groups such as Avukah, the Council for Arab-Jewish
Cooperation, or The People, does imply that the Frankfurt School
had an at least indirect effect on Chomsky's development.