‘Many Pay Last Tribute to Life and Work of Harry Alan Potamkin’ by Joseph Freeman from The Daily Worker. Vol. 10 No. 174. July 21, 1933.

‘Many Pay Last Tribute to Life and Work of Harry Alan Potamkin’ by Joseph Freeman from The Daily Worker. Vol. 10 No. 174. July 21, 1933.

Colleagues, Workers, Mourn Untimely Death at 33 of Revolutionary Poet and Critic.

Harry Alan Potamkin, noted revolutionary critic and poet, died late Wednesday afternoon at Bellevue Hospital, after a surgical operation for stomach ulcers, from which he had suffered for the past three years. Comrade Potamkin entered the hospital on June 25th. Efforts to save his life included six blood transfusions. Twenty-six members of the John Reed Club, of which Comrade Potamkin was secretary, the Workers Film and Photo League and o’ the Daily Worker Staff volunteered their blood. Three of these qualified, giving their blood several times. The three were Robert Hamilton of the “Daily,” Ben Field and Paul Beach of the John Reed Club.

The untimely death of this gifted revolutionary writer at 33 came as a profound shock to all who knew him. The John Reed Club, the Film and Photo League, the New Masses, the New Pioneer and ether organizations and publications with which Comrade Potamkin was connected are arranging the funeral, which will be held today, 2 p.m. at the Workers Center, 50 East 13th Street. Joseph Freeman, of the John Reed Club. Alexander Trachtenberg, of the Communist Party, and Martha Millet, Young Pioneer, will speak at the ceremony. The body will lie in state at the Center from 12 o’clock noon. The body will be cremated.

Despite his youth. Harry Alan Potamkin had already achieved a leading place among the best movie critics in the world. His work was known in England, France and the Soviet Union, as well as in the United States, where he was also known as a revolutionary poet and literary critic.

Comrade Potamkin was born in Philadelphia on April 10, 1900. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University where he specialized in belles lettres and the social sciences. Afterwards he spent five years directing the Children’s Play Village, an enterprise in educative play.

While still at college, he began his literary career in the Liberator, with a diatribe in verse against Woodrow Wilson. Subsequently he published, here and abroad verse, stories, and criticism of the theatre, the movies, and books. He was for a number of years the New’ York correspondent of Close Up, Experimental Cinema and other film publications. For a time he also edited the Guardian.

Comrade Potamkin, always sympathetic to the revolutionary movement, entered it as an active fighter in 1927. He was one of the first members of the John Reed Club and held various positions in it. At the time of his death he was Its executive secretary. In 1930 he was one of the John Reed Club delegates to the Kharkov conference of revolutionary writers, where he helped to formulate the program of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers. In the last six years of his life he was a frequent contributor to the New Masses, the Daily Worker and the Labor Defender.

He was particularly Interested in working class children, and wrote quantities of verse and prose for the New Pioneer as well as songs, plays and operettas for the pioneer groups. His revolutionary children’s songs are being sung this summer by the children at Kinderland. and a number of them have been issued today in a book of songs published by the New Pioneer. He was also co-author of the forthcoming book for children called “Our Lenin,” to be issued by International Publishers.

An intelligent, witty and profound analyst of the American and European film, Comrade Potamkin, was among the first to recognize the worldwide importance and significance of the Soviet film. He considered his first contact with the Soviet film a turning point in his life and dedicated his talents and energies to interpreting It. His analysis of the Soviet film were filled with the deep feeling and understanding of his Communist convictions.

Eisenstein and other Soviet directors, as well as leading film authorities in this country and in Europe, considered Comrade Potamkin one of the best film critics In the world.

His work for the Soviet film is emphasized in a statement issued to the press yesterday by the Amkino corporation. American distributor of Soviet films. The statement follows:

“With the death of Harry Alan Potamkin American has lost its major film critic and commentator. Potamkin combined within himself an acute understanding of film art with a human and profound cultural background. In his death the Soviet Union, too. has lost a friend.

“At all times he gave himself unselfishly for the promotion and interpretation of the Soviet kino in this His untimely death, in part, was no doubt brought to pass because of the sacrifices of time, energy and health in the interests of the Soviet kino.

“Potamkin was loved and respected by all who knew him. He will be mourned by thousands and not soon replaced.”

‘mkino is dedicating the latest Soviet film in this country to the memory of Comrade Potamkin. This film, “The Patriots,” is one of the best produced in the U.S.S.R. The dedication will read: “Dedicated to Harry Alan Fotamkin, whose death is a great loss to cinema art and literature.”

As a critic, Comrade Potamkin had an unusual grasp both of the technical side of the film and of its political Implications. His reviews and articles always related the two in a style that was lucid and brilliant. In the revolutionary criticism of the film he was not only a pioneer but a leader whose original ideas have already had a marked influence on younger critics.

With his literary work. Comrade Potamkin combined, despite his fatal illness, practical activities in various working class organizations. Those who worked with him knew him as an indefatigable worker, a gay and charming person, a loyal comrade, a brilliant conversationalist who profusely and generously poured out new and stimulating ideas, and a devoted fighter for Communism.

He kept up his work almost to the end. contributing articles to the revolutionary press until he entered the hospital.

A resolution adopted by the John Reed Club upon the announcement of his death says in part:

“The tragic death of Comrade Harry Alan Potamkin in his early thirties has taken from the revolutionary movement one of the most gifted and loyal of its writers. Comrade Potamkin devoted his talents and energies without reserve to the struggle of the working class for the overthrow of capitalism.

Developed Revolutionary Criticism

“In the John Reed Club, the New Masses, the Daily Worker, the New Pioneer and in various liberal publications for which he wrote he consistently developed revolutionary criticism and upheld the Communist views on art and literature.

“Despite the fatal illness which finally took him from our ranks, he continued almost to the end to devote his prolific and brilliant pen to the revolutionary movement. While suffering Intense physical pain, he gave freely of his time and effort to his duties as secretary of the John Reed Club and participated in various campaigns of the Communist Party.

“The writers and artists of the John Reed Club who took pride in his life deeply mourn his untimely death. We honor the memory of Comrade Harry Alan Potamkin and pledge ourselves to continue the struggle for a Communist culture to which he gave himself so wholeheartedly.”

The John Reed Club is preparing an exhibition of Comrade Potamkin’s work at its headquarters.

The Daily Worker began in 1924 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party US and its predecessor organizations. Among the most long-lasting and important left publications in US history, it had a circulation of 35,000 at its peak. The Daily Worker came from The Ohio Socialist, published by the Left Wing-dominated Socialist Party of Ohio in Cleveland from 1917 to November 1919, when it became became The Toiler, paper of the Communist Labor Party. In December 1921 the above-ground Workers Party of America merged the Toiler with the paper Workers Council to found The Worker, which became The Daily Worker beginning January 13, 1924.

Access to PDF of full issue: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020097/1933-07-21/ed-1/seq-4/

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