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Workers Vanguard No. 895

6 July 2007

ICL Honors Our Comrade Diana Kartsen


Our comrade Diana Kartsen died on April 12 at age 58 of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). The Librarian of the Prometheus Research Library since its inception, Diana was also at the time of her death a member of the Spartacist League/U.S. Central Control Commission, on which she served in different capacities for more than two decades.

Memorial gatherings for Diana have been held internationally. Written tributes have come in from Europe, India and elsewhere, including from young women cadres of the International Communist League who had been inspired by Diana and from Marxist scholars who worked with her at the Prometheus Research Library. In several countries, as is the custom in the communist movement, Diana’s comrades gathered at the gravesites of past revolutionaries to lay wreaths, including at the grave of Karl Marx in London and at the Wall of the Communards in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. In Chicago, where Diana was recruited to Trotskyism in the early 1970s, comrades gathered at the memorial to the Haymarket martyrs. In Japan, comrades honored her at the grave of heroic Soviet spies Richard Sorge and Ozaki Hotsumi.

In New York, where Diana lived for the last 30 years, more than 100 comrades, friends and family gathered on May 27. A memorial meeting was also held in Oakland on June 10. At both gatherings, photographs and documents were displayed highlighting in particular her role as a leader of our interventions at numerous demonstrations and as head of the PRL. Under Diana’s leadership, the Library, which serves as the Spartacist League’s central archive, acquired over 6,000 books and periodical volumes. In collaboration with SL/U.S. National Chairman Jim Robertson and others, Diana and her staff were instrumental in the publishing of three books by the PRL: James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism; Dog Days: James P. Cannon vs. Max Shachtman in the Communist League of America, 1931-1933; and the first publication in Russian of Leon Trotsky’s The Communist International After Lenin. She also oversaw the production of six bulletins of the Prometheus Research Series.

At the New York gathering, Carl Lichtenstein, who worked closely with Diana at the PRL, not only spoke about her work in administering the Library but stressed how she was always concerned about “keeping comrades politically current, knowing what was going on, knowing where our work fit in.” Corky Benedict, long a mainstay of the Maintenance department in the party center, indicated a green hard hat with Diana’s name on it on the PRL display table, which Maintenance comrades gave her as a testament to her assistance in transforming “an old, run-down loft building into a space that is friendly to books and archival material and to comrades and visiting scholars.” Bryan Palmer, who came to know Diana while working at the PRL on his new biography of Cannon (James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928), sent a letter paying tribute to her “penchant for preserving our heritage, which is why she gave me such support in my research and writing on Cannon, and why she was such a successful builder of the PRL’s holdings.”

Numerous speakers and letters spoke to Diana’s concern for comrades’ development, her compassion, fairness and ability to listen, and her warmth and kindness toward the family of her beloved husband and comrade, Ed Kartsen. Ed’s sister Victoria told the New York meeting how Diana took extraordinary care in looking after their family as Ed’s mother lay in a coma in Harlem Hospital in August 2003. Describing her return home to Florida, Victoria said, “As I sat waiting for the plane wondering whether my mother would survive, I was comforted by the thought that Diana would be keeping an eye on my mom’s progress. I also realized that my brother was extraordinarily fortunate to have found such a wonderful woman to love and to be loved by.”

In her speech at the New York memorial, Mindy, Diana’s close friend and comrade, spoke of Ed’s devotion to Diana: “Ed really loved her and took care of Diana. From the moment he got home from work and on the weekends he was her sole caregiver. She could no longer walk or talk, move her hands or eat. To do what Ed did, you have to set aside your ego and yourself. You become totally selfless in order to do what needs to be done for the one you love. I, and I think all of us, salute him.”

Speaking in Oakland, comrade Francis expressed her heartfelt appreciation for comrades Karen, Gayle, Mindy and Ed for their diligent care for Diana over the last period of her life. Beginning her remarks by recalling Diana’s last phone call with Elizabeth King Robertson, a party leader who died in October 2005, she concluded: “Someone’s recent tribute referred to Diana’s arched eyebrow. Her arched eyebrow and the accompanying evil twinkle that would come into her eye—those were Diana’s signal warning you of the coming of a wry remark that left you laughing, whether on the field of battle or as she was dying. But Diana died in the comfort, which is left to us to fulfill, that her party, that Lizzy’s party, that the party of the proletariat lives on.”

We print below our party’s memorial tribute delivered in New York by Jane Kirby, as well as speeches by Ed Kartsen and his aunt, Susan Jarvis, Mindy and Jim Robertson, some of which have been excerpted.

* * *

Jane Kirby: Diana died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, a disease that is slowly debilitating and where advancing paralysis essentially entombs one in one’s own body. So we all knew that she was dying. Nonetheless as Jim remarked to me, it was still a tremendous shock when she did die. She fought until the end to continue to keep up with all aspects of the party’s work, particularly that of the Prometheus Research Library of which she was the founding and head Librarian, but also the work of the party’s central office of which she had been a key component, the work of the locals of the American section and of our sections internationally.

Although her ability to communicate progressively diminished, she would pump comrades by whatever means she had at hand for news of what was going on, and above all about the comrades themselves—their lives, their concerns, their problems—for Diana keenly understood the importance of cadre preservation as central to forging a Leninist vanguard party as the critical instrumentality for the liberation of all of humanity from this increasingly brutal and depraved system of capitalist imperialism. More than that, she was simply a nice person.

She was very much the stiff-upper-lip WASP, not cold or dour or snobbish but very upright, with a keen and abiding sense of right and wrong, and one not given to self-pity or for that matter to any manner of egotism. She was a rock. At the end, she fought with all the calm determination and iron will that she brought to her work as a leading cadre of our party for some 25 years. She continued to be a voice of reason, offering considered and objective advice to her friends and comrades. Diana also maintained a very wry sense of humor through it all. When her friend comrade Francis came in a few months ago to see Diana and say her goodbyes, she asked Diana if there was anything she could do to help Ed—Diana’s companion and the love of her life—after she was gone. Diana, who was no longer capable of speaking, typed into her voice machine the following question: “Where am I going?” Of course, one can see aspects of denial there. But I see her understated but devilish wit, and I can just see the twinkle in her eye.

But now she is gone. And that is a tremendous loss to our party, the International Communist League. And it leaves a big hole in the hearts of her companion Ed, her family—sister Nancy and her two daughters Alex and “Little Di”—and her friends. But as a comrade from the Mexican section wrote in a letter to Diana at the end, “Some consolation comes from knowing that as communists our impact stretches far beyond our counted days.” And today, we come not only to honor Diana but to learn from the example of her role in our party and to carry forward the fight to which she remained unwaveringly committed to the end—the fight to reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International.

Diana was a party cadre of the school of James P. Cannon, who himself learned from Lenin and Trotsky, and these lessons were immediately and particularly passed on to Diana by Jim Robertson, who himself learned from Cannon. For Jim, Diana was one of his closest political collaborators and friends, and her loss is incalculable. Their collaboration began some 30 years ago as they worked together to build the Prometheus Research Library, starting from comrade Robertson’s 40-year accumulated and organized collection, with Diana as Librarian and Jim as Director. It was a collaboration that would extend into many areas of party work.

In a work titled “Factional Struggle and Party Leadership,” James P. Cannon succinctly summed up the Leninist conception of party leadership. And the following section, I think, is one that really captures Diana:

“A third feature of our conception of the cadre, which we work on consciously and deliberately all the time, is to cultivate among all the leading people the ability to work together; not to be individual stars; not to be wiseacres who make problems of themselves—but people who fit into a machine; work with others; recognize the merits and respect the opinions of others; recognize that there is no such thing as an unimportant person, that anybody who stands for the program and is sent into the National Committee by his branch or local has got something to give. The task of the central leaders of the party is to open the door for him, find out what he can do, and help him to train himself to do better in the future.

“The ability to work together is an essential feature of our conception of the leading cadre, and the next feature is that of a division of labor. It is not necessary for one or two wise guys to know everything and do everything. It is much better, much firmer, much surer if you have a broad selection of people, each one of whom contributes something to the decisions and does a specially selective work for which he is qualified, and coordinates his work with others.”

These are the qualities that Diana Kartsen brought to our party leadership. She was not a facile pen, she was not a grand orator. She was an audacious military leader, but never did this translate into a perception of herself as an individual star. She always worked to build a collective, and comrades who worked with her in the many fields of party work for which she had responsibility all speak of how she would give a thorough political briefing and overview of what was going on in the party as a precondition to any assignment she was in charge of, no matter how pressing the tasks or how short the time at hand.

As the head Librarian at PRL, she keenly understood the importance of a Leninist party as the memory of the working class, meticulously assembling the documentary record of our revolutionary forebears to preserve, as Trotsky put it, the dearly bought lessons of the past in order to guide the future revolutionary struggles of the proletariat and to preserve our own revolutionary continuity going back to Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party. She brought this understanding to preserving our own documentary record in her role as Secretary of the Political Bureau, to which she was appointed in 1991, and as the head of the secretariat at many national and international gatherings of our tendency. She was extremely professional, and her superb organizational skills were rooted in the highest political consciousness.

As her companion and political collaborator, Ed Kartsen, wrote in a letter to comrades the day Diana died, “She had a clear conception of the unity of mental and physical labor, that is, of theory with practice.” In her day-to-day political life she fought against the division between “thinkers” and “doers”—which is itself an ideological expression of class-divided society serving to justify the exploitation and oppression of those who “work with their hands” as some kind of lesser beings, deserving of their lot in life. Her work at the Library involved setting up the physical plant, carefully cataloguing, shelving, and numerous construction projects as our holdings expanded. She was also key in cohering the structures and systems necessary to pursue our work in the central party office and the International Secretariat.

Comrade Robertson made the point that Diana was not only one of the most senior, but the most responsible cadre of an earlier order of party leadership. As the highest expression of this capacity, he underlined her position as the Central Committee representative to the party’s Control Commission—a position she held for 20 years and one which requires and carries with it the greatest moral authority in the party.

We ran into Diana and Wes, who was her companion at the time, in 1970-71 at the University of Chicago. That was a time of great radicalization and outpouring of opposition to U.S. imperialism’s dirty war against the Vietnamese workers and peasants. In a recent letter Wes recalled that Diana disliked the destructive, mindless radicalism that characterized at least a wing of the New Left. That certainly rang true. Diana was a very serious person, and she was also very cultured. At the time we met her she was a graduate student in Art History whose main interest was Islamic art, to which end she was struggling to learn Arabic, which is no mean feat.

But at the same time, she was passionately opposed to the racism, to the injustice, to the poverty and the war of this capitalist society. Impelled particularly by the brutal police attacks on protesters at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, Wes and Diana became connected with the campus International Socialists [I.S.]. At the time, the I.S. was striking a rather left posture—a response to the more radical political temperature of the times—including selling books such as Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed, his seminal work analyzing the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution. This took some chutzpah considering that this book is a complete repudiation of the International Socialists’ so-called “theory” that the Soviet Union had become a new form of class society—a position which was born under the pressures of “democratic” imperialism and which was implemented on its behalf as these so-called “third campists” took the side of imperialist-inspired counterrevolution in every conflict in which the defense of the gains of October was posed.

But Diana was won to genuine Trotskyism and the fight for new Octobers, embarking on her course to becoming a professional revolutionary when she joined the Chicago chapter of our newly founded youth organization, the Revolutionary Communist Youth, in October 1971. A comrade from the time recalled seeing “this striking young woman with red flowing hair and a visible hammer and sickle pin on her jacket striding across the campus” at the University of Chicago. In 1973, Diana and Wes went to live and study in India under the political direction of the party. It was a difficult trip. But the intense experiences that she had that year in India contributed to her fight for a communist future for humanity. After her year in India, she abandoned her academic career, moved to New York and joined the party in 1974.

To get a measure of Diana, it is useful to look at the different political periods that shaped her, how the world was changing, the changing demands on the party and the strengths that she brought to bear in different political periods. When she joined the RCY in 1971, the Spartacist League had doubled in size, winning new recruits from our hard communist interventions in the antiwar movement, the women’s movement, in the fight for black liberation, in the working class and in polemical struggle against our opponents on the left. Out of this we had gained a key accretion of cadre from our fusion with the Communist Working Collective, which we had won from Maoism to Trotskyism.

A 1971 “Memorandum to the Central Committee on the Transformation of the SL” by the Political Bureau noted that “almost every aspect of struggle and motion has found us compelled to intervene, in a way qualitatively at variance with our self-designation as an unstable sub-propaganda group.” Out of this memorandum and discussion, we launched Workers Vanguard in 1971. Second only to establishing a regular and frequent press, we recognized the need to systematize and expand our work in the unions. We established a communist youth organization, the RCY, organizationally independent and politically subordinate to the party, as the training ground for young apprentice communists like Diana.

Understanding the importance of forging a black cadre to the fight for socialist revolution in this deeply racist country, where capitalism is rooted in the forcible subjugation of blacks at the bottom, we saw an opening to winning the most thoughtful and dedicated of those black radicals who were questioning the program of black separatism following the split in the Black Panther Party. Throughout Diana’s life in the party, the fight for black freedom was always at the forefront of her interventions. Labor and black, the two central questions of the American Revolution were, for her, key.

The Transformation Memorandum concluded by emphasizing that “in this period of many-sided expansion and growth, we must not lose sight of the necessity to maintain the SL as a centralized, highly responsible national collective.” Diana would become a key part of this collective, not only nationally but internationally. From the very first issue of Spartacist, we recognized the importance of revolutionary regroupment through splits and fusions with leftward-moving elements from contending organizations in the workers movement as key to forging a Leninist international. In 1974, the Spartacist League/U.S. and the Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand issued a Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency, based on our 1966 Declaration of Principles and dedicated to the rebirth of the Fourth International.

As we began to realize regroupment with splits from other tendencies internationally, particularly from Ernest Mandel’s United Secretariat, Diana’s work was critical to organizing an International Secretariat, setting up the systems and apparatus crucial to cohering the international Spartacist tendency. In this capacity, she was also central to the organizing of our first International Conference in 1979. In 1980, Diana was elected as a candidate member of the SL/U.S. Central Committee, and at a subsequent PB meeting she was appointed the department head of the Prometheus Research Library as well as of the International Secretariat in New York.

It was in the 1980s that Diana would demonstrate her capacity as a military leader. This was a far different political period than the heady days of the Vietnam antiwar movement. The winds of anti-Soviet Cold War II were blowing red hot. The rest of the left had moved sharply to the right. We stood out for our hard-edged and forthright fight to defend the gains of the October Revolution, which remained embodied in the Soviet Union and in the deformed workers states, against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution. Those who wanted to have the Pope run Poland, who took the side of the CIA-backed Islamic reaction in Afghanistan against the liberating role played by the Red Army, who wanted to keep El Salvador safe for U.S. imperialism, came after us 16 ways from Sunday. That lineup ran from the Wall Street Journal right down to most of the left. The left went after us with Big Lie campaigns of slander, with attempts to exclude us, calling the capitalist cops and so on. We took a lot of losses in this period of members who couldn’t take the heat. But it was in this period that Diana came to the fore, as a leader in fighting against the stream.

Her abilities as a decisive and clearheaded leader of a combat party were demonstrated at the mass protests over Central America. The Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the leftist rebels in El Salvador were seen as “Soviet surrogates,” and Central America was a front line in U.S. imperialism’s drive to “roll back Communism.” They poured millions into arming and bankrolling the sadistic contra terrorists in Nicaragua and the death squad junta in El Salvador. In the face of the advancing victories by leftist rebels in El Salvador, the reformists and rad-libs appealed for a “political solution”—that is, a deal with the blood-crazed military butchers in El Salvador, and at home looked to the Democratic Party to set a more “humane” policy for U.S. imperialism. The Spartacist League drew the class line. We fought for an Anti-Imperialist Contingent around the central demands: Military Victory to Leftist Insurgents! Defense of Cuba and the USSR Begins in El Salvador! Break with the Democrats—For Workers Action to Bring Down Reagan!

At a massive protest in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 1981, our Anti-Imperialist Contingent was 500-strong. The organizers of that protest, centrally Sam Marcy’s Workers World Party and its front groups of the time, set up a line of marshals to prevent people from joining our anti-imperialist rally. As we wrote at the time, the Marcyite organizers “understood that their job was to keep youth ‘uncontaminated’ by communism” and “ready for Teddy” (that is, Teddy Kennedy, who was then the liberal darling of the Democratic Party). Diana was not part of the designated central leadership at that demonstration, but she fought to have our forces marshaled against the Marcyite goon squad which was trying to prevent people from joining us. Unfortunately, she did not prevail. But she was given a battlefield promotion from being a candidate member of the Central Committee to being an alternate, and she won a commendation from the Political Bureau.

At a subsequent mass protest on March 27, 1982, where Diana was a central component of the leadership, the Marcyites were given a well-deserved lesson in workers democracy when they once again tried to seal us off with another one of their “daisy chain” goon squads. But it was at our 5,000-strong Labor/Black Mobilization to Stop the Klan in Washington, D.C., on November 27, 1982, that Diana really demonstrated the capacities of military leadership. And that is at bottom a political question, the ability to make the on-the-spot command decisions that provide revolutionary leadership and bring our program into action.

The Klan had been given the go-ahead by Reagan’s White House to rally for racist terror and genocide in the nation’s capital. We mobilized to stop them. Key to this was getting the support of organized labor, the first coming from the predominantly black waterfront unions in the Tidewater area. Other labor support began to pour in, which set the stage for bringing out thousands of fighters from the black and working-class population of the D.C. region. On the eve of the demonstration, the D.C. cops went on a campaign to intimidate people from coming out. We were told that our mobilization would be completely cordoned off. More than 1,000 cops were out to protect the Klan that day. But some 5,000 turned out to stop the Klan despite the threats and intimidation. In the course of the day, the anti-Klan protesters became increasingly aware of their strength and their power. And Diana called the shots that provided key aspects of leadership.

What she demonstrated was an ability to assess the tenor of the crowd, their response to our speeches and other interventions, and from there to tactically anticipate what was needed to provide leadership. This included the ability to reverse, on site, decisions that had previously been made. Understanding the determination of the anti-Klan protesters and anticipating that there was no way they were going to let the Klan march that day, she made two key decisions. One was to make sure that we got a leadership team to the top of the hill where the Klan was supposed to be assembling. The Klan didn’t march that day, they didn’t even put on their hoods and robes, but scurried away like sewer rats when they saw the reception they were about to receive. The other decision Diana made was to assemble our banners to lead the crowd when they learned of the Klan’s retreat. And when the cops began to pull back, the crowd took to the street, jubilantly chanting, “We stopped the Klan!” The Spartacist League provided the conscious Bolshevik leadership, and it was Diana who was key to that in making the decisions on site that gave coherence and political leadership.

In August 1983 Diana was elected as a full member of the Central Committee at our Seventh National Conference. In December of that year, she was brought on to the Political Bureau, and six months later she was elected as National Secretary, paying particular attention to the often conflicting demands of the central office departments and the SL locals and to politically organizing the necessary discussion to prioritize our work. In June 1988, she was asked to give up her post as National Secretary in order to concentrate full-time on running the Library. That August we brought out the first of our Prometheus Research Series bulletins, the resolution of the Third Congress of the Communist International, “Guidelines on the Organizational Structure of Communist Parties, on the Methods and Content of Their Work.” That was the first of six PRS bulletins, which you can see in the displays here today, as well as two books on the history and political struggles of James P. Cannon and the publication of Trotsky’s The Communist International After Lenin in the original Russian.

In the mid 1990s, Diana came back to play key roles in the central party administration in a period in which we were going through a very wrenching transition of leadership. This transition was compounded by the impact on our party of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union—a world-historic defeat for the international working class. Our difficulties in this period have been frankly assessed in our press, reflecting the internal discussions that have gone on in the struggle to maintain our revolutionary continuity in the post-Soviet period.

Diana was a key thread in that revolutionary continuity, not only, and importantly, through her work at PRL but also in helping to train a new generation. In their farewells to Diana, a number of younger women cadre wrote movingly of the impact that she had on them as a shining example of a strong Bolshevik woman leader. She of course had her failings and her weaknesses. But the fight for collective leadership is none other than the recognition that there is no such thing as 100-percent leadership. Or as Cannon put it, we are men of common clay. Our purpose in this memorial to our dear comrade Diana is not hagiography; it is to carry forward the fight to which she dedicated her life: the socialist emancipation of the workers and all the oppressed of the world, and the forging of the international revolutionary party necessary for that victory.

* * *

Susan Jarvis: I am Ed and Diana’s aunt, generally known to one and all as Aunt Sue. I met Diana for the first time on December 25, 1984, when Ed brought her to Christmas dinner. Thank you, Ed, for bringing Diana into our life. That was the day they told us they were planning to be married. After that Christmas we spent 22 Thanksgivings and 22 Christmases together. Diana always said to me, “You love to cook, we love to eat. It’s a perfect division of labor.”

When I thought about what I wanted to say today, I realized how many happy memories I have of the times we shared together. I remember celebrating their marriage with dinner at Tavern on the Green and a carriage ride through Central Park. I have been looking through the boxes of photographs I have accumulated over the years: pictures of country trips, of outdoor concerts, of picnics, of museum visits, and of sitting and talking endlessly with glasses of wine at our elbows.

We also shared the grief when Vincent [Susan’s husband] died, and it was Ed and Diana who supported me through that sad time. We loved Diana deeply from the day Ed brought her to us. We loved her for her kindness, for her compassion, her morality, her belief in human potential, her grace, her humor—she could always make us laugh—and perhaps most of all her intelligence.

We shared a love of the music of Bach, of Chinese landscape painting, of Asian landscapes, of detective stories. And above all we had a love of history. In the weeks before she died, when she could no longer hold a book in her hands, I was reading to her a book about Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. And it’s very appropriate to me that the music that was playing when we came into the room was from Gettysburg. Her intellect, her love of knowledge—these were the things that sustained her to the very end of her life.

I respected and admired her belief in the working class and the possibility of a socialist future for the world. Her greatest devotion was to her party and to Ed and, of course, the two can’t be separated in her life. I don’t believe in God or religion, but according to the Jewish tradition, which is my tradition, Diana will be immortal. She will live forever in the memory of those who knew her and loved her.

* * *

Ed Kartsen: I was honored by the opportunity of knowing and loving Diana. She had the capacity to put someone as socially awkward as me at rest and relaxed immediately. And that’s what she did the first time I met her at the Prometheus Research Library. Her openness, her comradely attitude, her friendliness were the things that first attracted me to her. Our early discussions on Marxist literature eventually blossomed over time into discussions encompassing Marxist theory, dialectical materialism, and all the natural sciences. We married in 1985.

Our personal struggles developed into a relationship of deep love, respect and theoretical depth. Diana’s impact was wide-ranging as you can see from the speakers today, and I was fortunate enough to have been enriched by the experience of having ongoing and deep theoretical discussions with Diana.

One of the things I learned about her was her capacity to categorize information, an essential skill for a librarian. She displayed a great capacity for attention to detail. She had a profound understanding of the organization of systems of information. And this turned out to be the organization of information not only in a literary sense but in the military and in the scientific. In the maintenance and construction projects you heard about, she truly got a concrete understanding of the sense of the unity of physical and mental labor.

She well understood the A of the ABCs of dialectics, “A” being the necessity of objective information, exhaustive knowledge based on the understanding of things in their development and their transformation through contradictions. She understood this to be the foundation for making scientific judgments in her party work. She learned a great deal of this in the Prometheus Research Library work, under the direction of comrade Jim Robertson.

She used her ability to organize objective information on a battlefield and her ability to organize the subjective accumulated knowledge of the Marxist movement in her library work. This work contributed, as you can see from the PRL display, to the preservation of the Marxist literary history of our movement, including the James P. Cannon writings of the early years of American Communism, as well as the early conflict between Cannon and Shachtman in the CLA, 1931-1933, the Dog Days. This work provided Diana with the capacity to understand many of the components of dialectics. But even before she was a communist, she studied art history at the University of Chicago. In her studies she eventually comprehended the evolution of art forms. And she once told me that in studying the forms of art from one historic period to the next, she came to an understanding of the transformation of quantitative change into qualitative change.

She started out as a liberal before joining the communist movement. But she developed into a communist who stood with iron firmness against the political censorship of liberal reformism in the service of imperialism (as you heard comrade Jane talk about here today). She had a passionate hatred of injustice and racism as a young woman, and this converted her into a dedicated communist in the struggle for revolutionary integration.

She had a revolutionary fire in her belly and she was a fighter to the last. She radiated strength, determination, competence, discipline, accountability, love, intelligence, objectivity—what can be summed up as the highest level of comradeship. She expressed everything positive in leadership qualities. She knew the primary importance of the highest level of political consciousness as a guide to the highest quality of organizational work, the essence of Bolshevism. The workers movement must never forget her contributions.

We were all lucky to have known her as long as we did, and her memory will live in the work we do to secure the construction of an egalitarian socialist society across the entire globe.

* * *

Mindy: I feel when your best friend and comrade dies you need to stand up and pay tribute. You make friends over years through the good times and hard times, but mainly the hard times. And Diana was always for me, and she was always there for me. If it wasn’t for her and other people in this party I might not be here. I would have walked through fire for her. I don’t know when we first became friends, maybe some 30 years ago. In those days we spent hours at the office or at the Library doing politics together, hanging out together, drinking together and so on. We all loved doing politics together and we really enjoyed each other’s comradeship and friendship.

I thought we would be sitting on bar stools until at least the age of 70. You know, we were very different people. I can’t tell you how many world problems and party problems we tried to solve and how we just sat around and gossiped. She would always say to me: Mindy, you’re never one to mince words. Diana was a WASP, very proper, very private. If Diana said she was “annoyed,” you knew she was furious.

She always gave me perspective. I’m the kind of person that you have to agree with me, now. That’s it. But Diana was very understated. She would tell you what she thought, and I knew that if I didn’t agree with her I had to go home and think about it. And I would go home and think about it and what she said, and I realized she was usually right.

But where we were very different people, given our respective upbringings, politically we were very similar in respect to how we viewed the work. We both felt it important that the comrades in your department were politically informed and given reports to read and given verbal reports of various meetings, in order that those comrades could carry out their political assignments. And the well-being of those comrades was your responsibility as well. But none of this is unusual. This is how we were trained, and we were trained by Jim, like other people in this room. I read Prometheus Research Series No. 6 [Selected Speeches and Writings in Honor of Three Women Leaders of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)—Martha Phillips, Susan Adams, Elizabeth King Robertson] in preparation for this meeting. And it is very striking to me how a generation of us came of age during the ’60s, joined the party and was politically trained by Jim.

Diana got her battlefield promotion not just for the fight to reverse the daisy chain but for the report that was called into the center. And I made that call with her report. That battlefield promotion was for defending the party! I was her “runner” on November 27, 1982, and she was formidable. I can still see it; it’s like in slow motion: every person in charge giving her reports—in one ear, right out of her mouth, directive after directive without even thinking. And the decision to take that hill. Because the reports coming in were that the thousands of people that came out to our call to stop the Klan were now on the hill. The rumor was the Klan was up on Capitol Hill, and the masses spontaneously took down the fences and poured into the streets. Diana understood that the party needed to assert our leadership and made that decision to take the hill.

I want to give mention to the “ad hoc committee to save Diana Kartsen.” When Diana was finally diagnosed with ALS, in January of 2005, Gayle, Karen, Richard and myself started making plans to help Diana. Because we loved her. And then Rachel stepped in and said: No, this is party business, and she worked out a division of labor.

A couple of months before Diana died, I was over there. She had been unable to talk for quite some time; she had her bi-pap (a breathing machine) on that she pretty much used 24 hours a day. She had a communication device that she could use with her knuckle, which was the only thing that worked, really, anymore. She tapped in, “How much money do you think we spent?” and I said, “Where?” And she said, “In the bars.” And I said, “Di, probably enough to buy a condo, but I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.” I will always miss her.

* * *

Jim Robertson: I did not prepare any notes, but of course since Diana died, I have thought a great deal about her and her political and organizational and personal relations. She was a representative of an old and now well past order in the administration of the Spartacist League, and she was far from our worst representative. She was quite a senior comrade.

A great deal has been mentioned about her capacity to lead in our picket lines and demonstrations under sometimes very difficult conditions. And we were generally successful in our endeavors under her direction and never came to any disasters with the police or somebody killing our members—which is quite an achievement in a second half of the 20th century in North America.

The post which most shows the trust that the organization had in her was that she was the representative from the SL/U.S. Central Committee to its Central Control Commission. That is a position of grave responsibility, and she discharged it very well. After the administration of the organization changed, she simply moved easily into further professionalizing the work of Prometheus Research Library, and until she became incapacitated with this miserable, debilitating and ultimately fatal illness, she was attending library school to get further credentials to pursue the work of Prometheus Research Library. For me personally, given her qualities, she functioned as kind of a combination for a number of decades of both my surrogate mother and my conscience.


Workers Vanguard No. 895

WV 895

6 July 2007


For Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

Supreme Court: Segregation Forever


Zionists Tighten Vise as Hamas Takes Gaza Ghetto

U.S./Israel Provoke Palestinian Bloodbath

Defend the Palestinian People!

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!


Break with the Tripartite Alliance! For Workers Revolution!

South Africa: Bitter End to Defiant Strike


Labor Party Leader Backs Howard's Racist War on Aborigines

Australian Cops/Military: Hands Off Aboriginal Communities!

For a Class-Struggle Fight for Aboriginal Rights!


Payback for 2005 NYC Transit Strike

State Revokes TWU Dues Checkoff

Rip Up Slave-Labor Taylor Law!


Zionism: A Marxist Understanding

(Quote of the Week)




Norden for President?

The IG and Executive Office: Sewer Centrism


ICL Honors Our Comrade Diana Kartsen


SFSU Students Walk Out Against Fee Hikes

SYC Says: "Free, Quality Education! Abolish the Administration!"

(Young Spartacus pages)


Opponent of Zionist Terror Denied Tenure

Protest DePaul University Attack on Norman Finkelstein!

(Young Spartacus pages)


The Suffragettes, the Russian Revolution and Women's Liberation

Spartacist League/Britain Educational

(Women and Revolution pages)


PDC Protests Police Attacks Against South African Strikers