Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 24, 2007

Life-style of communist leaders?

Filed under: real estate,sectarianism — louisproyect @ 11:37 pm

a revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.

–Max Horkheimer

NY Observer, July 15, 2007
Communists Capitalize on Village Sale—Get $1.87 M. for Loft
by Max Abelson

If bow-tied, cigar-mouthed Republicans can have nice seven-digit, six-room co-ops, don’t a few old Manhattan communists deserve multi-million-dollar real estate, too?

A two-bedroom loft at 380 West 12th Street, a 109-year-old building on a cobblestone block by the Hudson River, was sold by American socialist leaders Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters. Their buyers, Sony BMG Music Entertainment vice president Ole Obermann and his fiancée, Stephanie Jakubiak, paid $1,872,500.


Jack Barnes

“I don’t want to hurt the sellers’ feelings at all, but they definitely had a funky style in terms of how they did the apartment,” said Mr. Obermann. That means there are sliding stained-glass doors, plus a wall of bookshelves. (Ms. Waters is the president of publishing house Pathfinder Press, which publishes Marx and Trotsky, and Mr. Barnes, too.)

Mary-Alice Waters

“Personally, our tastes are different and we’ll probably do something different,” the buyer said. “It will be open, airy, simple, whereas when it was done 15 years ago there was a lot of light-colored wood shelving.” He’s adding six or so wireless speakers, “a nice music system.”

Edward Ferris of Brown Harris Stevens was the listing broker.

It isn’t clear when Mr. Barnes and Ms. Waters bought the place or how much they paid, but city records date back to 1993, when apartments were massively cheaper.

Unlike most people in six-room lofts, Mr. Barnes once met with Kim Il-sung, the late North Korean president. The leader “conversed with the guests in a cordial and friendly atmosphere and arranged a lunch for them,” a report published by the BBC in 1990 said. “US Socialist Workers’ Party, led by its National Secretary Jack Barnes … presented him with a gift.”

So what is the couple like? “We only met Mary-Alice, and she was incredibly friendly, interesting, had a nice warm way about her, seemed like a very nice woman,” Mr. Obermann said. “She mentioned she really liked to cook, they would have friends over—it’s like a social space.”


  1. Did you hear the CP USA is renting out their building from some insane amount of money as well?

    I wasn’t aware that Alice-Waters and Barnes were a couple. It makes the current SWP’s cult of personality seem even more bizarre when the two key people running the organization are together. If they ever split up, would that lead to a faction fight and split?

    Comment by Binh — July 25, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

  2. If they ever split up, would that lead to a faction fight and split?

    That sort of thing isn’t completely unknown. If memory serves, something very similar happened to the Canadian IS.

    Comment by splinteredsunrise — July 27, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  3. That sort of thing isn’t completely unknown. If memory serves, something very similar happened to the Canadian IS.


    Comment by Binh — July 27, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

  4. No, it’s true. There were political issues in dispute, but one of the big factors was that Dave and Abbie were getting divorced and comrades sided with one or the other. Not a very edifying episode.

    Comment by splinteredsunrise — July 28, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  5. What did Barnes and Waters do with the proceeds of their condo sale? Did it go back into the party or did they keep it?

    Comment by curious — September 20, 2007 @ 2:16 am

  6. Given the current political dynamics of 20th century american exceptionalist fundamentalism vs. 21st century american imperial reformism, it is quaint to learn of the fortunes of Jack and MAW, and I do mean fortunes. I wonder, are they moving into the garment district to reproletarianize?

    I made the turn long before Jack advocated it, and have no regrets. I do miss the spirit of the times circa 1971-72, and the opportunities to organize in the subsequent “upsurge” in union struggles. I stayed in the struggle throughout and beyond, despite multiple expulsions from the mouse that Jack built.
    I don’t think we will hear a roar.

    Comment by David — October 29, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

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