Remembering Joanne Landy

Against the Current, No. 194, May/June 2018

Samuel Farber

JOANNE LANDY PASSED away on October 14, 2017, on the eve of her 76th birthday, after a long struggle with cancer.

I first met Joanne almost 60 years ago at a meeting of the Politics Club, a front for the left-wing “Shachtmanites” (Third Camp socialists) at the University of Chicago campus, to celebrate and analyze the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship that had taken place several days earlier in Cuba.

Not too long after that, Joanne left for New York, so I only got to know her well when we met again in Berkeley as graduate students in the fall of 1964.

Joanne arrived shortly before the Free Speech Movement and the founding of the Independent Socialist Club, led by Hal Draper and Joel Geier among others.

After Berkeley, we met again in New York in 1976 when I moved there from Los Angeles. There, we worked together organizing support for the Solidarnosc movement in Poland in the early eighties.
We afterwards kept in touch, among other reasons because of Joanne’s membership in the editorial board of New Politics of which I was a long-time supporter and occasional contributor.

Throughout all those years, I knew Joanne as a principled and unflinching supporter and organizer for a radical democratic politics opposed to oppression and exploitation throughout the world, a politics at the heart of the Third Camp socialism she always defended. For me, two traits distinguished her political work:

One was her internationalism: Joanne became active around many international causes, particularly in Eastern Europe, Greece and the Middle East. Never a cheerleader, she carefully analyzed the political groups and forces at work to make more effective her strategy of support for the struggles abroad, always aimed at strengthening the forces with the most progressive and democratic politics.

Joanne was also particularly adept at recruiting people of different backgrounds to get them involved in her various projects. For years she was the lead person of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (of which she was co-founder and co-director with Tom Harrison), which became the vehicle for dozens of protests denouncing abuses abroad and the U.S. foreign policies that helped enable them.

She was also very active in domestic social causes, particularly in her longtime capacity as executive director of the New York chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.

While Joanne had graduate degrees from two distinguished universities (History at Berkeley, and Public Health at Columbia University), she readily gave up a professional career to dedicate herself to the politics she stood for her whole life. I have always had a great deal of respect for Joanne’s decision to make this sacrifice.

One of the most vivid memories I have of Joanne is the political enthusiasm with which she helped build the Berkeley campus branch of the Independent Socialist Club that became the International Socialists in 1969. She was a star recruiter for that group, as she was for all the projects she undertook. I believe that her success was due to being a good listener who did not try to hit people over the head with politics that were mostly new to them.

Joanne will be remembered as an important builder of our political tradition. She deserves a very special recognition among the many comrades whose passing has been mourned by Against the Current.

May-June 2018, ATC 194