Letter and Cover on American ORT Federation Letterhead Signed Edward L. Sard
Letter written at the American ORT Federation (on their letterhead) in New York, dated July 12, 1949. Interesting content and signature by Edward L. Sard as the Executive Director. Cover postmarked in New York on July 12, 1949. Air Mail. Correspondence addressed to ORT Cuba Offices in Havana.
ORT is a global education network driven by Jewish values. It promotes education and training in communities worldwide. Its activities throughout its history have spanned more than 100 countries and five continents. It was founded in 1880 in Saint Petersburg to provide professional and vocational training for young Jews.
During World War II, ORT continued to serve Jewish communities, including those under Nazi occupation. In the Warsaw Ghetto, the German authorities gave ORT permission to open vocational training courses. Those courses continued throughout the war and until the liquidation of the Ghetto. They served as a template for similar ORT programs in other Jewish centers like Łódź and Kaunas.
After the end of World War II, ORT established rehabilitation programs for the survivors. The first one in Germany was started in August 1945 in the Landsberg DP camp. Vocational training centers were set up in 78 DP (Displaced Persons) Camps in Germany, and nearly 85,000 people acquired professions and the tools they would need to rebuild their lives. Jacob Olejski, a Dachau survivor who had previously organized ORT in Lithuania, was the driving force behind ORT’s revival in Germany. After 1948 he organized ORT in the newly founded state of Israel.
Edward Sard (1913-99) was born in Brooklyn as Edward Solomon, the son of Charles Solomon and Augustina Hess Solomon, two college graduates who worked in education at high schools in New York City. Tina Solomon was a suffragette who in 1909, during her student years at Barnard College, co-founded a sorority. It was chiefly through her influence that Edward and his younger brother Eugene V. (born in 1923 and named after the prominent socialist Eugene V. Debs) received a leftwing education.
Edward was an excellent pupil and also played chess at the highest level. In 1929 he won a scholarship and became a student of economics — at first at Cornell University (1929-33) and then at Columbia University (1934-36).
After the onset of the Great Depression, Solomon became attracted to revolutionary socialism. In 1934 he joined, together with a few fellow students from Columbia, a tiny Trotskyist group, the Organization Committee for a Revolutionary Workers Party of the former Wall Street analyst Max Gould (alias B.J. Field), whom Trotsky characterized as “a bourgeois radical who has acquired the economic views of Marxism.”
Solomon became very active. In January 1935 he began to publish substantial articles in the group’s magazine Labor Front. He also gave talks on “The Paris Commune,” “How Far to Fascism?” and other topics. In the OCRWP he for the first time used his pseudonym Frank L. Demby (sometimes misspelled as Denby).
In 1936, following Trotsky’s advice, the American Workers Party, the largest Trotskyist organization in the United States, decided to enter the Socialist Party of America. They formed a faction around the newspaper Socialist Appeal, strongly supported by many members of the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL), the SP’s youth affiliate.
B.J. Field refused to make the same so-called French Turn. Solomon and Stanley Plastrick led the opposition inside Field’s group, and amidst growing tensions were “knocked to the floor and beaten about the head” by Field and his associates. After their expulsion they immediately joined the Socialist Appeal group of James P. Cannon and Max Shachtman. Here they were welcomed with open arms.
The “entrism” in the Socialist Party did not last long. Already in 1937 the Trotskyists and their supporters were expelled and at the turn of the year they formed a new organization, the Socialist Workers Party. During these vicissitudes Solomon’s star rose. The Philadelphia YPSL convention in September 1937 had elected him as the national officer responsible for education.
Earlier, in 1936, Solomon graduated at Columbia University with an erudite master’s thesis on “A History of the Labor Theory of Value.” In this work he called the Soviet Union “still a workers’ state” and highlighted the danger of fascism:
“It is commonly thought that fascism is resorted to by the capitalist class solely because there is a threat of a proletarian revolution. The experience in Austria proves conclusively the contrary. The economic necessity for fascism is based on the falling average rate of profits to such a low point that it is necessary to drive the price of labor-power (wages) down below its value. In order to do this, all those organizations which help to sustain wage levels (trade unions, cooperatives, political parties) must be crushed. This is the first act of every fascist government and shows that, while the threat of proletarian revolution may be a secondary factor, capitalism will not resort to fascism unless economically it has to in order to preserve profits, without which capitalism ceases to exist.”
From 1937 Solomon supported himself as a teacher of economics and economic geography at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. Simultaneously he tried to work on a doctoral thesis on an unknown subject, but his many political activities made it impossible to realize this plan.
During the summer months Solomon regularly travelled to Europe. In 1936 he met Trotsky in Norway, and kept corresponding with “the Old Man” thereafter. On his trips he visited Trotskyist sister organizations. In 1937 he went to Switzerland and, with the help of German comrades in exile, also coordinated the production of the English edition of the International Bulletin of the revolutionary youth in Paris.
In that same year he already claimed to have “observed myself most of the sections of the Fourth International movement.” He was also involved in the preparation and aftercare of Trotsky’s tribunal in Coyoacán, April 1937.
In 1938 Solomon went to Europe again. Together with his contemporary Nathan Gould he assisted SWP leader James P. Cannon, who at Trotsky’s urging attempted the unification of several British Trotskyist groups [the Militant Group, the Revolutionary Socialist League (C.L.R. James, Harry Wicks), and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Edinburgh)]. In August ’38 the three men stayed for two weeks in London and succeeded in bringing about a merger that, however, soon proved to have been cosmetic and shortlived.
After that, Cannon and Gould traveled to Paris for the founding of the Fourth International on September 3, 1938. Solomon stayed in Europe as well, but apparently did not participate in the Parisian event. He visited Trotskyist comrades in France, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and the Netherlands and drew up a report.
In the Socialist Workers Party he held several important positions. But already in 1940 Shachtman’s supporters left the SWP and founded a new Workers Party. By the early ’40s they no longer considered the USSR as a (degenerated) workers’ state, but as a form of Bureaucratic Collectivism. Solomon followed Shachtman and became head of the new Finance Department.
In 1940 or 1941 Edward and Eugene Solomon changed their last name to Sard. Eugene wanted to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but its anti-semitic administration had introduced a Numerus Clausus for Jews. In order to pass the selection procedure he had to adopt a non-Jewish family name. His brother stood by him. They decided to call themselves Sard, following other family members who — in a sardonic mood — had already made this change.
Edward became Edward L. Sard — the initial referred to his wife Doris (“Bobby”) Landau (1920-2007), whom he had met at the YPSL convention of 1938 and married later that year. In 1941 a son (Richard) was born. After the United States had joined the war against Japan and Germany in December of the same year, Sard took up office in the federal administration and moved with his wife and child to Washington.
From December 1942 to August 1943 he belonged to the Office of Price Administration. Next he worked for the War Production Board, first (from August 1943 until October 1944) as editor of the Statistics of War Production — a position that gave him access to “confidential data relating to all phases of the war production program for use by 300 top governmental policy makers.”
Thereafter he was promoted to Chief of the Office of Component Reports, which made him responsible for the “development of supply requirements estimates for critical components for use by [the] Requirements Committee and policy making levels of WPB [War Production Board] and OWMR [Other War Material Requirements]” (from November 1944 until September 1945). Through these activities Sard gained a thorough understanding of the U.S. war economy.
During his “Demby period” Solomon/Sard frequently wrote for Shachtman’s Workers Party weekly Labor Action. His short articles were based on a solid knowledge of the facts and did not shrink from statistical analyses. In 1940 he argued that “The U.S., following the example of Europe, has entered upon an armaments economy,” and that “Wall Street is well aware of the fact that the ‘prosperity’ in this country is based on the war and the continuation of the war.”
Aircraft was fast becoming the “key industry of the war;” its expansion was “absolutely phenomenal, more so than any other industry in the history of American capitalism.” Solomon/Sard pointed out that though corporate profits went up, the purchasing power of the population decreased. Wages were cut through growing inflation. The war economy went together with a rising profit rate and rate of surplus value.