Tag Archives: City College of New York

Ellis on Marx…


Albert Ellis is best known as the creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This form of psychotherapy is one of the most practiced forms of cognitive therapy today. What I find most interesting is that he was primarily influenced by philosophy rather than psychology.

Ellis's hobby, beginning at the age of 16, was philosophy--first reading it, and then writing it. When he enrolled in the City College of New York for his undergraduate degree he was still reading these philosophic texts although his major was Business Administration. In 1932, Ellis met Manny Elston and Albert Ney, both of whom had a profound impact on his thoughts and views of the world at the time. Ellis states in his autobiography All Out! that it was these two individuals that encouraged him to apply some of the economic philosophy that he was reading and turned him from armchair philosopher into active revolutionist. Elston, a professor of music, and Ney, a decorator, had run the Young Communist League of America (YCL), until they had been tossed out due to some ideological differences. Elston and Ney went on to start their own revolutionary party, Young America.

Ellis letter to Simon and Schuster, 1936 March 25, page 1





Ellis letter to Simon and Schuster, 1936 March 25, page 2


Young America was against the American Communist Party (CP), but was for socialism and collectivism. Young America appealed to Ellis for a variety of reasons:

"First, it was radical, not namby-pamby liberal or social democratic. Second, it was opposed to the Communist Party of America, which I considered Stalin's handmaiden and the apologist for his dictatorial terrorism and suppression of free speech. Third, it would fight against fascism, which had already taken over Italy,


 and against Nazism, which was about to take over Germany. Fourth, it might help save the United States from the Great Depression, which capitalism and the Republican Party had brought on and which was now entering its devastating third year." 1

Elston and Ney made Ellis leader of one of the chapters. Ellis was deathly afraid of public speaking, but would use this opportunity to overcome his fear. He forced himself to deliver a public speech once a week, laying out the framework of Young America to audiences in the hopes of gaining supporters and new members. As a result of this exercise not only would he overcome his fear, but would become an excellent public speaker. This experience served to teach Ellis about phobias, and influenced his psychotherapy practices later in life.

Primer of Marxism, title page





Primer of Marxism, Table of Contents, page 1


Back to Ellis' revolutionary days. He was enrolled in Business Administration so economics was at the forefront of his studies. He had believed that collectivism should trump capitalism based on what he had read and was learning in college. Capitalism was rather inefficient what with all the technology available why not overproduce and take the surplus time to enjoy one's life? Ellis, above all, believed in efficiency--if collectivism was employed, then workers could harness technology to do a significant portion of labor, and workers could enjoy shorter work hours. Ellis later stated that his view had been naïve because although collectivism was in theory a good idea and capitalism a bad one, under Stalin's dictatorship the farmers and factory workers sabotaged socialism and its magnanimous and self-sacrificing virtues. Perhaps capitalism was in fact the more efficient system.

Though Ellis later turned away from Marxism, traces of his early enthusiasm for efficiency are apparent in his papers. I just started sifting through the Albert Ellis Papers, charged with the job of organizing and describing these materials. While the many boxes contain a disarray of papers, I did come across a large brown envelope with "Primer of Marxism, First Draft," written across the front. Inside I found a manuscript along with a letter to Simon and Schuster from Ellis dated March 25, 1936. Previously, on January 28, 1936, Oxford Publishing Company had turned down the manuscript for publishing. I came to uncover that Ellis had completed this Primer in 1935, at the age of 21.

Primer of Marxism, Table of Contents, page 2



Primer of Marxism, Table of Contents, page 3



In this manuscript of the Primer, Ellis breaks down Das Kapital, volume by volume, explaining the tenets of Marx's text. He eliminates that which he considers confusing, or unnecessary and confusing making for a more efficient text. This primer is essentially an explanation, if you will, of Das Kapital. For anyone who has read this Marx text, this primer might well be appreciated.

Primer of Marxism, Table of Contents, page 4



Interestingly, it would appear that this primer has never been published.



I have scanned some of the text and posted it here.

 1. Ellis, Albert, All Out! An Autobiography (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2010) 265.



Primer of Marxism, Introduction, page 1






Primer of Marxism, Introduction, page 2










Primer of Marxism, Volume I, "What Gives a Commodity Exchange-Value?", page 3







Primer of Marxism, Volume I, "What Gives a Commodity Exchange-Value?", page 4




Welcome to the Albert Ellis Blog..


Albert Ellis was one of the most influential figures in modern psychology, best known for developing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). In December 2010, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University acquired his papers, approximately 300 linear feet of correspondence, manuscripts, journals notebooks, and audio materials, documenting his fascinating and controversial life and career. This blog will follow my progress as I sort through and organize these records.


Ellis materials

Ellis was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1913. He was the oldest of three, a brother, Paul, and a sister, Janet. His father was a salesman and spent a considerable time on the road. When Ellis was four, the family moved to New York, first to an apartment in Manhattan, and later to the Bronx.

When Ellis was twelve, he entered junior high at Public School 79 and then attended the High School of Commerce. Ellis went on to enroll in the Baruch School of Business and Civic Administration of CCNY obtaining his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1934.

He had always been an avid reader, and much of his reading centered on the subjects of love, marriage and sex, leading him to becoming what he called a "sex-love revolutionist." He wrote about these topics frequently and as a result, many friends and family members would approach Ellis for advice. He founded the Love and Marriage Problem (LAMP) Institute for research and therapy, but without a degree in said subject matter, he decided to pursue one in 1942, enrolling in the psychology program at Teachers College. Ellis received his MA in Guidance in 1943, and his PhD in Counseling in 1947, both from Teachers College. After obtaining his PhD, he became chief psychologist of the New Jersey State Diagnostic Center and then chief psychologist of the State of New Jersey. In 1951, he published his first book, The Folklore of Sex.

After practicing liberal psychoanalysis for many years, Ellis left it behind and developed REBT. The development of REBT happened over the course of a few years, from 1953 to 1955. This therapy includes "cognitive, emotional, and action-oriented techniques, but was highly philosophic. It used many methods of ancient philosophies–such as Socrates, Epictetus, and Seneca; but also favored modern methods of Emerson, Dewey, Santayana, Russell, and Wittgenstein." 1 In addition, Ellis was greatly influenced by Afred Korzbyski, who developed the theory of general semantics, and Paul Tillich, an existentialist. The psychologists Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, and Karen Horney were also primary influences.

In 1959, Ellis founded the Albert Ellis Institute in Manhattan, which trained therapists in the United States and abroad, gave professional and public presentations and distributed published materials on REBT. 

I was hired at the end of 2010 by Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library to process, (arrange and describe), the Albert Ellis Papers donated to the University by the Albert Ellis Institute and Ellis’s widow, Debbie Joffe Ellis.

I took some photographs of the boxes piled up in my office. While the papers appear a bit chaotic, the fact that I do not have an inventory of these records should provide some surprises as I move through them. 

Part of the joy for archivists is research. A substantial part of our job is the description of materials, which will serve as an aid to any future interested parties wishing to conduct research. The descriptive aspect requires reading and learning as much as possible about the subject, or in this case, individual. One document can lead to a quest, usually turning up a story. The most common complaint among fellow archivists is lack of time–we always wish to be able to read everything held within these collections. I hope you will follow me as I post materials here and supply some of my work and history behind them.

Ellis materials, reel to reel
Ellis materials, audio cassette tapes

1. Ellis, Albert, All Out! An Autobiography (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2010) 548.