I was the managing editor of In These Times in the early ’80s, when the exhilaration of the antiwar movement had evaporated and the left was trying to find its way forward in the dead air of the disco era. Surely others will have plenty to say about Jimmy’s crucial role in keeping the left alive through those years. He did it with the force of his intellect, and with his ferocious dedication to the paper (which would suspend the payroll at least once a year and send us all down to the unemployment office to collect a stipend).
But he also did it indirectly, by showing people like me that we could move into the adult world without forsaking our ideals. It was the dawn of the “yuppie” era. Most of the paper’s staff were just entering their 30s and considering, for the first time, the desirablity of a car that started every morning and an apartment without six roommates – not to mention children, a mortgage and job benefits. But the New Left was still the thrall of severe, student-movement values, which declared that anything more than a mattress on the floor was suspect and out of bounds.
Jimmy had no trouble reconciling creature comforts with good politics. One day, when a staff member was being attacked for buying a color TV, Jimmy stepped in to say that his buddy Marty Sklar had once been criticized for the same thing. Marty’s defense, which Jimmy quoted with obvious approval, was that “nothing is too good for the working class.”