About Louis B. Boudin
Louis B. Boudin (1874–1952) was a Russian-born American Marxist theoretician, writer, politician, and lawyer. He is best remembered as the author of a two volume history of the Supreme Court's influence on American government, first published in 1932.
Louis B. Boudin was born Louis Boudianoff in imperial Russia on December 15, 1874. He was born into a middle-class family, the son of a shirt manufacturer.
The family emigrated to America in 1891 and settled in New York City. Louis worked in the garment industry as a shirtmaker and as a private tutor. At the same time, Boudin began legal studies, gaining a Master's Degree from New York University and being admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 1898.
In America, Boudin was first a member of the Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP). He was a member of the governing National Executive Board of the SLP's trade union affialiate, the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance (ST&LA) from 1898 to 1899. Boudin was also a delegate to the United Hebrew Trades organization in New York City at that same time.
Boudin wrote his first political articles in the Yiddish language, contributing works on aesthetics and the materialist conception of history (historical materialism) to such publications as Di Zukunft and Di Naye Geist.
Boudin left the Socialist Labor Party during the party fight of 1899, casting his lot with the dissident faction headed by Morris Hillquit and Henry Slobodin. This dissident SLP organization would eventually become one of the main pillars of the new Socialist Party of America, established in the summer of 1901.
From May 1905 through October 1906, Boudin wrote a series of articles expounding upon Marxism which were published in the Chicago magazine The International Socialist Review. These articles were collected in book form as The Theoretical Sysem of Karl Marx in the Light of Recent Criticism in February 1907. The title was published by the leading radical publishing house of the day, Charles H. Kerr & Co., and was kept in print continuously over the next two decades through several reissue editions. The book, a defense of such orthodox Marxist tenants as the labor theory of value and historical materialism against their critics of the day, established Boudin's place as one of the foremost American authorities on Marxism among a generation of young political activists.
Boudin was elected a delegate of the Socialist Party of America to the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart in 1907 and the 1910 Copenhagen Congress of the Second International.
Boudin was frequently a candidate for public office on the Socialist Party ticket. He ran for Judge of the New York Court of Appeals in 1910, 1914 and 1917, and for Chief Judge in 1916. He also ran for Justice of the New York Supreme Court (2nd District) in 1910, 1912, 1919.
Together with Ludwig Lore and Louis C. Fraina, Boudin was a founding editor of The Class Struggle, a Marxist theoretical magazine which first saw print in May 1917. The Class Struggle published news and commentary about revolutionary socialist events in Europe, including translations of works by some of the leading figures of the Zimmerwald Left, and was an important influence on the formation of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party in 1919 — a group which provided the core of the Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party later in that year. Boudin had left the project by this juncture, however, as a brief notice in the September–October 1918 issue indicated that he had resigned his position as an editor and member of the Socialist Publication Society owing to "differences concerning the policy of the magazine."
Life after politics
After the formation of the Communist Labor Party of America and the Communist Party of America, Boudin shied away from organized politics. He did, however, teach in the Communist Party-sponsored Workers' School in New York in the late 1920s and occasionally contributed articles to the CP's artistic magazine, The New Masses during the latter half of the 1930s. Boudin repudiated communism by 1940, although he remained a staunch defender of the civil liberties of Communist Party members.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Boudin was a frequent contributor of book reviews to scholarly journals such as the Columbia Law Review, The American Journal of Sociology, and The Journal of Politics.
In addition to working as a lawyer, winning several cases related to the rights of workers to organize trade unions, Boudin also wrote a two volume work called Government by Judiciary, revisiting a topic which he had dealt with in a previous shorter book. In this work, never much read by the radical movement of the day, Boudin argued that the democratic rights of the people had been usurped by the judicial branch of government. While not influential with political activists of the period, Boudin's book remained in use among law students for decades, according to historian Paul Buhle.
Death and legacy
Louis Boudin died in 1952.
His papers reside at Columbia University in New York City and include the manuscript of an unpublished book, Order Out of Chaos, a study of economic crises.