The Communist International and U.S. Communism, 1919 - 1929 (Historical Materialism)

The Communist International and U.S. Communism, 1919 - 1929 (Historical Materialism)

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 1608464873

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Communist Party of the United States of America was founded amid the wave of international revolutionary struggles inspired by the Russian Revolution, with the express goal of leading US workers in the struggle against capitalism. Despite these intentions, the first years of its existence were plagued by sectarianism, infighting, and an obsession over the need for an underground organization. It was only through the intervention of the Communist International (Comintern) that the party was pushed to “Americanize,” come out from “the underground,” and focus on the struggles for Black liberation. This unique contribution documents the positive contribution of the Comintern in its early revolutionary years and its decline under Stalin.

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revolutionary activity in the Russian empire, and Reinstein’s wife had been arrested during the Red Scare; Pogány was in exile from the defeated Hungarian Revolution of 1919. As a result, all had credentials of illegal work, and perhaps could be expected to bring a sense of proportion to the American Communists.41 The main accomplishment of the Bridgman Convention was to unify all the competing tendencies into one party. The leaders of the ‘left opposition’, Ballam, Dirba and Ashkenudzie,

(dependent on the Soviet Union) or ‘American’ (rooted in American radical and labour history) was the Communist movement. The standard Cold War anti-Communist perspective portrayed Communism as a creation of the Soviet Union. Long time head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), J. Edgar Hoover, who built America’s anti-Communist repressive apparatus, declared that the archetypal Communist, ‘Even though he lives in the United States . . . is a supporter of a foreign power, espousing an

Frank Walsh was the chief counsel. The LDC reportedly raised $100,000. The legal team secured a mistrial for Foster (the first defendant to go on trial), but Ruthenberg was found guilty of one count of violating Michigan’s criminal syndicalism laws. Over the next decade, the LDC posted some $90,000 in bail for Ruthenberg and the other defendants while Ruthenberg’s case was on appeal. (The prosecution held off against the other defendants until Ruthenberg’s case was decided; the Communist leader

chiefly to blame’.9 Boiled down to its essentials, Foster’s perspective in the early 1920s was to build the labour movement through strengthening the existing unions in cooperation with their leaderships, if possible. In November 1920, he and a small number of followers organised the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL). This group quickly became a vessel for Foster to fill. One contemporary remarked that ‘not often does one find an organization so completely 8 Johanningsmeir 1994, pp. 88–149;

Pepper and Ruthenberg for ‘not realising sufficiently the dangers besetting the party on the long path to securing the co-operation of petty-bourgeois masses’. It then criticised ‘the comrades gathered around the other group, such as comrade[s] Hathaway and Cannon’ for having ‘made a number of declarations which show that in their efforts to secure influence on the pettybourgeoisie they failed to maintain the Communist position’. It denounced Lore for his ‘dangerous tendencies’ to

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