I have a simple policy: When you are fighting for your life, you don’t get into battles with the others on your side. There is a long history of doctrinal and personality battles that have split the opposition to those in the highest seats of power. The story of leftwing politics is a history of doctrinal quarrels. My first job when I arrived in New York City was as an editorial assistant at the New Leader magazine, a small magazine of ideas with a history of democratic socialism (i.e., anti-Communism). It was founded by Sol Levitas, who sympathized with the anti-Communist Mensheviks. When I got a job as an editorial assistant at the age of 22, I knew nothing of these quarrels, but over time I learned about not only the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, but the Trotskyites, the Lovestoneites, the Cannonites, the Schachtmanites, and a few other splinter groups. All of this was fascinating to me, a wide-eyed young college graduate who never heard of any of this stuff before arriving at the dusty offices of the New Leader on East 15th street in New York City.

The message I learned was to try, try, try to build a coalition; try not to fight with your allies; try not to get into quarrels over doctrine while your enemies grow stronger, while they feed and encourage your quarrels, and while they gloated as you battled.

That is why I make a point of never criticizing those who are on the side of public education, even when I disagree with them. Maybe someone will find an example where I broke that rule, but that’s what I aspire to. I also try never to get involved in union politics. To begin with, I don’t belong to a union, but to end with, it does us no good to fight internally when the forces we face are so well-armed with money, a rigid ideology, and expensive public relations.

Others don’t agree with me.

In the spirit of open dialogue, I present here a recent exchange of letters between Mercedes Schneider and Randi Weingarten.

Since I admire them both, I would like to see them working together as allies. I hope this exchange brings that day closer.