By Allen Myers
George Novack, well known as both a scholar and a defender of civil liberties, died in New York on July 30 at the age of 86.
Novack became a Marxist in the early 1930s, joining the (Trotskyist) Communist League of America (predecessor of the Socialist Workers Party). He remained a member of the SWP until his death, and was a member of its National Committee from 1940 to 1972.
In the late '30s, as national secretary of the American Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky, Novack helped to organise the International Commission of Inquiry into the Moscow trials. The commission, chaired by John Dewey, exhaustively investigated the trials and exposed them as frame-ups.
Novack was national secretary of the Civil Rights Defence Committee in the early '40s. The committee was established to defend leaders of the SWP and of the Teamsters Union who were convicted and jailed under the anticommunist, anti-union Smith Act.
He was a writer and editor for numerous publications of the SWP. A gifted writer able to present complex ideas clearly to a non-specialist audience, he was best known for the books he wrote and edited in the fields of history and Marxist philosophy. These included An Introduction to the Logic of Marxism, Understanding History, Pragmatism Versus Marxism, Empiricism and Its Evolution, The Origins of Materialism and Polemics in Marxist Philosophy.
Novack toured Australia in 1973, speaking on "The Meaning of Life: A Marxist View".