One of the Boys

Victor Navasky

Jimmy Weinstein took things personally but managed not to personalize them. Let me explain. Ham Fish and I came to The Nation (as publisher and editor) in the late 70s, not long after Jimmy had founded In These Times. Weinstein famously used to complain that when he started In These Times he thought he would be an editor, but he soon discovered that what he really had to be was a beggar. Regarding The Nation, he had an additional complaint. When he discovered that two or three of his friends who had given In These Times a modest sum had signed on to give The Nation $50,000 each, he told Alexander Cockburn, who was then writing the Press Clips” column for the Village Voice, that The Nation had the ability to raise that kind of money and he didn’t for two reasons: First, The Nation was an institution, more than a hundred years old, and second, Hamilton Fish the fourth [actually the fifth] is the publisher. A ruling class WASP. He goes to my Jewish friends for money and they shell out for him. If I go, I’m just one of the boys. I’m only worth $1,000 and he’s worth $50,000.”

Of course Jimmy was more than one of the boys.” A couple of other late 70s start-ups – Dave Dellinger’s Seven Days, which aspired to be a radical Time, and Tom Morgan’s Politicks, which was more center-liberal than radical – are no longer with us. But Jimmy, an idealist with no illusions, was indefatigable. In the summer of 1982 he told me that if he didn’t raise the requisite money by the end of year, he might have to shut down the paper, and he sent out a mailing telling his friends Without your help, we will join Braniff, the A&P and International Harvester on the dustheap of the Reagan recession.” The Nation ran a front-page editorial reporting his message and a few days later he was on the phone: It worked! We just got a check for $10,000.”

After he finally decided it was time to pack it in, and write another book, In These Times needed a new publisher. It didn’t surprise me that he recruited Hamilton Fish to head up the search.

Victor Navasky is the publisher of The Nation and author, most recently, of A Matter of Opinion.
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