Frances Fox Piven
I was not as fortunate as many of you. For a long time, I knew Daniel only from his writing. From his books, and also from his incomparable journalistic essays. As a journalist, Daniel was observant, and astute. He infused his accounts with a deep understanding of history, and Marxist theory. No one could compare with Daniel Singer as an observer of developments in contemporary Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, Italy and France.
It was not until the Socialist Scholars Conference of the 1980s that I got to know Daniel personally, and Jeanne as well. Panel chairs always competed for Daniel, knowing that whatever the subject, he would be eloquent and informed, and would draw a big audience besides. We often repaired to my apartment after a day of panels, Daniel and Jeanne, a few other friends, and diverse malcontents and organizers from Harlem. We would eat and drink, Daniel would preside, pouring the very ordinary wines I provided as though they were of the finest vintage, while Jeanne would discreetly take care of the many things I had neglected. One evening she delicately boned a platter of shad, which I was prepared to choke our guests with. We loved them both. And we loved Daniel because he was kind and wise and joyous. It is a loss beyond measure.
But we should try to take comfort because Daniel also leaves us so much in our memories of his distinctive and irrepressible conviction and passion. He was a socialist, of course. But to say that doesn't capture Daniel's intellectual faith, which was less in any doctrine than in the capacity of ordinary people, including the scorned and the downtrodden, the poor and the unemployed, the young and the wild, to grasp the essentials of a corrupted system, and to rise up with courage, and imagination in a rage for justice. That's why Daniel's most important books were about the movements of 1968, and the movements of today.
Daniel was a socialist, to be sure, but he was even more a democrat, a man whose faith in common people and the age-old struggle for freedom from exploitation and a measure of equality led him to reject all intellectual determinisms.Tributes * danielsinger.org