Mustering out of the U.S. army in 1919, Harry Haywood stepped into a battle that was to last the rest of his life. Within months, he found himself in the middle of one of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history and realized that he’d been fighting the wrong war—the real enemy was right here at home. This book is Haywood’s eloquent account of coming of age as a black man in twentieth-century America and of his political awakening in the Communist Party.
For all its cultural and historical interest, Harry Haywood’s story is also noteworthy for its considerable narrative drama. The son of parents born into slavery, Haywood tells how he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, found his first job as a shoeshine boy in Minneapolis, then went on to work as a waiter on trains and in restaurants in Chicago. After fighting in France during the war, he studied how to make revolutions in Moscow during the 1920s, led the Communist Party’s move into the Deep South in 1931, helped to organize the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, worked with the Sharecroppers’ Union, supported protests in Chicago against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, fought with the International Brigades in Spain, served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and continued to fight for the right of self-determination for the Afro-American nation in the United States until his death in 1985.
This new edition of his classic autobiography, Black Bolshevik, introduces American readers to the little-known story of a brilliant thinker, writer, and activist whose life encapsulates the struggle for freedom against all odds of the New Negro generation that came of age during and after World War I.
A leading African American Communist, lawyer William L. Patterson (1891–1980) was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the defeat of Jim Crowby virtue of his leadership of the Scottsboro campaign in the 1930s. In this watershed biography, historian Gerald Horne shows how Patterson helped to advance African American equality by fostering and leveraging international support for the movement. Horne highlights key moments in Patterson's global activism: his early education in the Soviet Union, his involvement with the Scottsboro trials and other high-profile civil rights cases of the 1930s to 1950s, his 1951 "We Charge Genocide" petition to the United Nations, and his later work with prisons and the Black Panther Party.
Through Patterson's story, Horne examines how the Cold War affected the freedom movement, with civil rights leadership sometimes disavowing African American leftists in exchange for concessions from the U.S. government. He also probes the complex and often contradictory relationship between the Communist Party and the African American community, including the impact of the FBI's infiltration of the Communist Party. Drawing from government and FBI documents, newspapers, periodicals, archival and manuscript collections, and personal papers, Horne documents Patterson's effectiveness at carrying the freedom struggle into the global arena and provides a fresh perspective on twentieth-century struggles for racial justice.
In a letter to his baby grandson, Bill Lazarre wrote that "unfortunately, despite the attempts by your grandpa and many others to present you with a better world, we were not very successful." Born in 1902 amid the pogroms in Eastern Europe, Lazarre dedicated his life to working for economic equality, racial justice, workers' rights, and a more just world. He was also dedicated to his family, especially his daughters, whom he raised as a single father following his wife’s death. In The Communist and the Communist's Daughter Jane Lazarre weaves memories of her father with documentary materials—such as his massive FBI file—to tell her father's fascinating history as a communist, a Jew, and a husband, father, and grandfather.
Soon after immigrating to the United States as a young man, Lazarre began a long career as a radical activist, being convicted of sedition, holding leadership positions in the American Communist Party, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, organizing labor unions, testifying in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and resisting the FBI’s efforts to recruit him as an informant. Through periods of heroism and deep despair Lazarre never abandoned his ideals or his sustained faith in the fundamental goodness of people.
This is also the story of Jane as she grew up, married an African American civil rights activist, and became a mother and a writer while coming to terms with her father’s legacy. She recounts her arguments with her father over ideology, but also his profound influence on her life. Throughout this poignant and beautifully written work, Jane examines memory, grief, love, and conscience while detailing the sacrifices, humanity, and unwavering convictions of a man who worked tirelessly to create a brighter future for us all.
Communists and Community seeks to reframe the traditional chronology of the Communist Party in the United States as a means to better understand the change that occurred in community activism in the mid-twentieth century. Ryan Pettengill argues that Popular Front activism continued to flourish throughout the war years and into the postwar period. In Detroit, where there was a critical mass of heavy industry, Communist Party activists mobilized support for civil rights and affordable housing, brought attention to police brutality, sought protection for the foreign-born, and led a movement for world peace.
Communists and Community demonstrates that the Communist Party created a social space where activists became effective advocates for the socioeconomic betterment of a multiracial work force. Pettengill uses Detroit as a case study to examine how communist activists and their sympathizers maintained a community to enhance the quality of life for the city’s working class. He investigates the long-term effects of organized labor’s decision to force communists out of the unions and abandon community-based activism. Communists and Community recounts how leftists helped workers, people of color, and other under-represented groups became part of the mainstream citizenry in America.
No socialist organization has ever had a more profound effect on black life than the Communist Party did in Harlem during the Depression. Mark Naison describes how the party won the early endorsement of such people as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and how its support of racial equality and integration impressed black intellectuals, including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson.
This meticulously researched work, largely based on primary materials and interviews with leading black Communists from the 1930s, is the first to fully explore this provocative encounter between whites and blacks. It provides a detailed look at an exciting period of reform, as well as an intimate portrait of Harlem in the 1920s and 30s, at the high point of its influence and pride.
The product of long-concealed FBI surveillance documents, Dangerous Friendship chronicles a history of Martin Luther King Jr. that the government kept secret from the public for years. The book reveals the story of Stanley Levison, a well-known figure in the Communist Party–USA, who became one of King’s closest friends and, effectively, his most trusted adviser. Levison, a Jewish attorney and businessman, became King’s pro bono ghostwriter, accountant, fundraiser, and legal adviser. This friendship, however, created many complications for both men. Because of Levison’s former ties to the Communist Party, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launched an obsessive campaign, wiretapping, tracking, and photographing Levison relentlessly. By association, King was labeled as “a Communist and subversive,” prompting then–attorney general Robert F. Kennedy to authorize secret surveillance of the civil rights leader. It was this effort that revealed King’s sexual philandering and furthered a breakdown of trust between King, Robert F. Kennedy, and eventually President John F. Kennedy. With stunning revelations, this book exposes both the general attitude of the U.S. government toward the privacy rights of American citizens during those difficult years as well as the extent to which King, Levison, and many other freedom workers were hounded by people at the very top of the U.S. security establishment.
Earl Browder, the preeminent 20th-century Communist party leader in the United States, steered the CPUSA through the critical years of the Great Depression and World War II. A Kansas native and veteran of numerous radical movements, he was peculiarly fitted by circumstance and temperament to head the cause during its heyday.
Serving as a bridge between American Communism’s secret and public worlds, Browder did more than anyone to attempt to explain the Soviet Union’s shifting policies to the American people in a way that would serve the interests of the CPUSA. A proud and loyal follower of Joseph Stalin, Browder nevertheless sought to move the party into the U.S. political mainstream. He used his knowledge of domestic politics to persuade the Communist International to modify Popular Front (1935-1939) tactics for the United States.
Despite his rise in the hierarchy, he possessed an independent streak that ultimately proved his undoing. Imprisonment as he neared age 50 left permanent psychological damage. After being released with the approval of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Browder lost his perspective and began entertaining delusions of grandeur about his status in American politics and in the world Communist movement. Still, he could never quite bring legitimacy to the CPUSA because he lacked the vision and moral courage to separate himself totally from the Soviet Union. Ryan concludes that Browder was not so much insincere as deluded. His failure contributed to the demise of the popularity of the Communist party in the United States.
In preparation for this book, the author consulted the Browder Papers at Syracuse University and U.S. Government documents, particularly the F.B.I. files. In addition, he traveled to Russia for research in the Soviet Archives when recently opened to Western scholars, including the records of the former Communist International and a collection of American Communist party files, 1919-1944, shipped secretly to Moscow long ago. Indeed, until 1992, the existence of the CPUSA collection was only rumored.
Ilene Philipson's biography of Ethel Rosenberg, only the second woman in U.S. history to be executed for treason, is now available in paperback for the first time.
"Contributes to women's history and biography and to radical history, particularly to our understanding of family, gender relations, and feminine identity of women radicals. . . . Ilene Philipson has produced a fascinating book"--Nancy Chodorow
"Tells the story of Ethel . . . from a woman's point of view. . . . Philipson, whose literary style has the clean exactitude of a tracer bullet, has produced a heart-rending masterpiece. If you read only one book a year, make it this one."
--Florence King, Newsday
"[Ethel Rosenberg's] stoicism on the witness stand, her unflinching response to the guilty verdict and death sentence, and her seeming indifference to the ordeal of her two children shocked the nation. . . . Concerned with rehabilitating not only Ethel Rosenberg's name, but also her image, the author creates a moving portrait of a human and ordinary woman."--John Patrick Diggins, New York Times Book Review
From Jail to Jail is the political autobiography of Sutan Ibrahim gelar Tan Malaka, an enigmatic and colorful political thinker of twentieth-century Asia, who was one of the most influential figures of the Indonesian Revolution. Variously labeled a communist, Trotskyite, and nationalist, Tan Malaka managed to run afoul of nearly every political group and faction involved in the Indonesian struggle for independence. During his decades of political activity, he spent periods of exile and hiding in nearly every country in Southeast Asia. As a Marxist who was expelled from and became a bitter enemy of his country’s Communist Party and as a nationalist who was imprisoned and murdered by his own government’s forces as a danger to its anticolonial struggle, Tan Malaka was and continues to be soaked in contradiction and controversy.
The Great Midland
Alexander Saxton University of Illinois Press, 1997 Library of Congress PS3537.A976G76 1997 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
One of the best novels ever to portray the lives of American Communist activists, The Great Midland is a story of love and radical politics set just before World War II. It was published in 1948, when cold-war hysteria engulfed the United States; the publisher subsequently tried to pretend the book did not exist, and review media and bookstores ignored it.
The book vividly depicts the multiracial and multiethnic alliances that developed as Chicago railroad workers struggled to organize. It presents some of its narrative through the complex consciousness of Stephanie Koviak, a young, first-generation Polish-American.
Dorise Nielsen was a pioneering feminist, a radical politician, the first Communist elected to Canadaís House of Commons, and the only woman elected in 1940. But despite her remarkable career, until now little has been known about her.From her youth in London during World War I to her burial in 1980 in a heroís cemetery in China, Nielsen lived through tumultuous times. Struggling through the Great Depression as a homesteaderís wife in rural Saskatchewan, Nielsen rebelled against the poverty and injustice that surrounded her, and found like-minded activists in the CCF and the Communist Party of Canada. In 1940 when leaders of the Communist Party were either interned or underground, Nielsen became their voice in Parliament. But her activism came at a high price. As a single mother in Ottawa, she sacrificed a close relationship with her family for her career. As a woman in an emerging political organisation, her authority was increasingly usurped by younger male party members. As a committed communist, she moved to Mao's China in 1957 and dedicated her lifeís work to a cause that went seriously awry.Faith Johnston illuminates the life of a woman who paved the way for a generation of women in politics, who tried to be both a good mother and a good revolutionary, and who refused to give up on either.
This absorbing and insightful biography illuminates the life of the controversial champion of Social Gospel in early-20th-century America.
Radical religious and political leader Harry F. Ward started life quietly enough in a family of Methodist shopkeepers and butchers in London. But his relentless pursuit of social justice would lead him to the United States and a long career of religious activism. Ward served as professor of Christian ethics at the Union Theological Seminary and chairman of the board of the American Civil Liberties Union for two decades. He also became a leader in labor groups, Protestant activist organizations, and New York intellectual circles.
David Duke builds his comprehensive story of this fiery leader from extensive archival sources, including FBI files and private correspondence, sermons, class notes, and other unpublished material. Duke skillfully charts Ward's rise from an idealistic Methodist minister in a Chicago stockyard parish to a prominent national religious leader and influential political figure. Ultimately, Ward's lifelong attempt to synthesize the beliefs of Jesus and Marx and his role as an admirer of the Soviet Union put him on a collision course with McCarthyism in Cold War America. Viewed by some as a prophet and by others as a heretic, traitor, and communist, Ward became increasingly marginalized as he stubbornly maintained his radical positions. Even in his own circle, he went from being a figure of unquestioned integrity who eloquently spoke his convictions to a tragically short-sighted idealogue whose unwavering pro-Soviet agenda blinded him to the horrors of Stalinist oppression.
Harry Ward's long, colorful career intersected nearly every intellectual current in American culture for more than a half century. This biography will be important for scholars of American religious history, students of liberalism and politics, social Christians, and general readers who enjoy a compelling tour into the private and public lives of notable figures of history.
Bryan D. Palmer's award-winning study of James P. Cannon's early years (1890-1928) details how the life of a Wobbly hobo agitator gave way to leadership in the emerging communist underground of the 1919 era. This historical drama unfolds alongside the life experiences of a native son of United States radicalism, the narrative moving from Rosedale, Kansas to Chicago, New York, and Moscow. Written with panache, Palmer's richly detailed book situates American communism's formative decade of the 1920s in the dynamics of a specific political and economic context. Our understanding of the indigenous currents of the American revolutionary left is widened, just as appreciation of the complex nature of its interaction with international forces is deepened.
The compelling story of a teenage girl caught up in the throes of the McCarthy era.
Margaret Fuchs was thirteen in June 1955 when she learned that her parents had been Communists while working for the U.S. government in the 1930s and '40s. This book chronicles the years during which her parents were exposed and her father was subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Eventually he named names, and subsequently lost his job as a law professor at American University, and was blacklisted from teaching ever again. Legacy of a False Promise also details the author's quest as an adult to learn whether or not her parents ever spied for the Soviet Union.
Based on eight years of research using family records, FBI files, American University archives, personal interviews, and the recently declassified Venona cables, Legacy of a False Promise offers unique insights into the McCarthy Era. Most "red-diaper babies" who have written on the subject had parents who refused to give in to HUAC's demands. Singer's work instead recounts the shame and series of betrayals that her father's decision to name names brought to her family. Furthermore, it explores the campaign of the liberal anti-Communist movement to publicize its political position while defending a fired ex-Communist professor, the nature and activities of secret Communist underground cells, and the motivation of New Deal government workers who spied for the Soviets.
This is a poignant meditation on family secrets, father-daughter relationships in times of crisis, teenage loneliness in the midst of trauma, and the effects of parents' actions on the lives of their children. It also serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of sacrificing civil liberties in the name of national security.
The Man Who Stayed Behind
Sidney Rittenberg and Amanda Bennett Duke University Press, 2001 Library of Congress HX418.8.R58A3 2001 | Dewey Decimal 951.05092
The Man Who Stayed Behind is the remarkable account of Sidney Rittenberg, an American who was sent to China by the U.S. military in the 1940s. A student activist and labor organizer who was fluent in Chinese, Rittenberg became caught up in the turbulence that engulfed China and remained there until the late 1970s. Even with access to China’s highest leaders as an American communist, however, he was twice imprisoned for a total of sixteen years. Both a memoir and a documentary history of the Chinese revolution from 1949 through the Cultural Revolution, The Man Who Stayed Behind provides a human perspective on China’s efforts to build a new society. Critical of both his own mistakes and those of the Communist leadership, Rittenberg nevertheless gives an even-handed account of a country that is now free of internal war for the first time in a hundred years.
Roque Dalton Northwestern University Press, 1982 Library of Congress HX148.8.M37A3 2010 | Dewey Decimal 324.272840750924
Miguel Mármol is the testimony of a revolutionary, as recorded by Salvadoran writer, Roque Dalton, which documents the historical and political events of El Salvador through the first decades of the 20th century. This Latin American classic describes the growth and development of the workers' movement and the communist party in El Salvador and Guatemala, and contains Mármol's impressions of post-revolutionary Russia in the twenties, describing in vivid detail the brutality and repression of the Martínez dictatorship and the reemergence of the workers' movement after Martínez was ousted. It also gives a broad and clear picture of the lives of the ordinary peasant and worker in Central America, their sufferings, their hopes and their struggles.
In Mobilizing Youth, Susan B. Whitney examines how youth moved to the forefront of French politics in the two decades following the First World War. In those years Communists and Catholics forged the most important youth movements in France. Focusing on the competing efforts of the two groups to mobilize the young and harness generational aspirations, Whitney traces the formative years of the Young Communists and the Young Christian Workers, including their female branches. She analyzes the ideologies of the movements, their major campaigns, their styles of political and religious engagement, and their approaches to male and female activism. As Whitney demonstrates, the recasting of gender roles lay at the heart of Catholic efforts and became crucial to Communist strategies in the mid-1930s.
Moving back and forth between the constantly shifting tactics devised to mobilize young people and the circumstances of their lives, Whitney gives special consideration to the context in which the youth movements operated and in which young people made choices. She traces the impact of the First World War on the young and on the formulation of generation-based political and religious identities, the role of work and leisure in young people’s lives and political mobilization, the impact of the Depression, the importance of Soviet ideas and intervention in French Communist youth politics, and the state’s attention to youth after the victory of France’s Popular Front government in 1936. Mobilizing Youth concludes by inserting the era’s youth activists and movements into the complicated events of the Second World War.
Baron brings together eleven articles published between 1958 and 1986 with a new introduction and an autobiographical essay that serves as a coda to the collection. The essays examine Georgi V. Plekhanov's ideas about history and their relationship to Soviet historiography, most especially his concept of poet-primitive Russia not as a Western feudal society but rather an Oriental despotism, and his views on the prospect for socialism in the United States. Baron also includes two pieces that revise his earlier thinking about Plekhanov, retracing his steps and exploring paths he neglected in his earlier research for his major biography, Plekhanov: The Father of Russian Marxism (1963).
Long before Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a Brooklyn Dodger contract in 1945, Lester Rodney, the newly hired and first sports editor of the Communist Daily Worker, launched the campaign that proved decisive in eventually breaking baseball's color line. But in the hostile anti-Communist climate of those years and for many years after, Rodney's story remained largely unknown. It therefore came as a surprise to many when Arnold Rampersad, in his authoritative 1997 biography of Jackie Robinson, wrote: "In the campaign to end Jim Crow in baseball, the most vigorous efforts came from the Communist press, most notably from Lester Rodney." Now Press Box Red tells the story of that remarkable 11-year campaign and of Rodney's unique career covering sports for the Daily Worker until he left the Communist Party in 1958. Press Box Red is packed with first-hand accounts of Rodney's challenges to the high muck-a-mucks of professional and collegiate sports, and contains frank and frequently humorous encounters with owners, managers, and coaches like Branch Rickey, Larry MacPhail, Bill Veeck, Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel, Nat Holman, Clair Bee and numerous athletes including Robinson, Roy Campanella, Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige, Peewee Reese, Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, and many others. It's a story every fan will love.
Phu Rieng was one of many French rubber plantations in colonial Vietnam; Tran Tu Binh was one of 17,606 laborers brought to work there in 1927, and his memoir is a straightforward, emotionally searing account of how one Vietnamese youth became involved in revolutionary politics. The connection between this early experience and later activities of the author becomes clear as we learn that Tran Tu Binh survived imprisonment on Con Son island to help engineer the general uprising in Hanoi in 1945.
The Red Earth is the first of dozens of such works by veterans of the 1924–45 struggle in Vietnam to be published in English translation. It is important reading for all those interested in the many-faceted history of modern Vietnam and of communism in the non-Western world.
One of the few publicly known communists in the South, Junius Scales organized textile workers, fought segregation, and was the only American to be imprisoned under the membership clause of the Smith Act during the McCarthy years. This compact collective memoir, built on three interconnected oral histories and including a historical essay by Gail O'Brien, covers Scales's organizing activities and work against racism in the South, his progressive disillusionment with Party bureaucracy and dogmatic rigidity, his persecution and imprisonment, as well as his family's radicalism and response to FBI hounding and blacklisting.
Through the distinct perspectives of Junius, his wife Gladys, and his daughter Barbara, this book deepens and personalizes the story of American radicalism. Conversational, intimate, and exceptionally accessible, A Red Family offers a unique look at the American communist experience from the inside out.
As the immigrant teenage son of a Croatian miller, Steve Nelson arrived in the United States after World War I and entered a world of chronic unemployment, low wages, dangerous work, and discrimination. Following the path taken by many fellow immigrant workers, he joined the Communist Party. He became a full-time organizer and ultimately a major leader, only to resign in 1957 after unsuccessful attempts to democratize the American party.
This remarkable oral biography, recounted in collaboration with two historians, describes day-to-day life in the party and traces Nelson's career from his beginnings in the Pennsylvania coalfields to his secret work as party courier in the Far East; form the battlefields of Civil War Spain to the jails of Cold War Pittsburgh; and from a small group of Communist autoworkers in Detroit to the upper reaches of a party leadership in New York. It is the frank and analytical account of a leading American working-class activist.
In this trenchant work, James Barrett traces the political journey of a leading worker radical whose life and experiences encapsulate radicalism's rise and fall in the United States.
A self-educated wage earner raised in the slums of a large industrial city, William Z. Foster became a brilliant union organizer who helped build the American Federation of Labor and, later, radical Trade Union Educational League. Embracing socialism, syndicalism, and communism in turn, Foster rose through the ranks of the American Communist Party to stand at the forefront of labor politics throughout the 1920s. Yet by the time he died in 1961, in a Moscow hospital far from the meat-packing plants and steel mills where he had built his reputation, Foster's political marginalism stood as a symbol for the isolation of American labor radicalism in the postwar era.
Integrating both the indigenous and the international factors that determined the fate of American communism, William Z. Foster and the Tragedy of American Radicalism provides a new understanding of the basis for radicalism among twentieth-century American workers.