The Roots of American Communism, by Theodore Draper; The I.W.W., by Paul Brissenden
Much respectable opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, the American Communist party did not spring fully armed from the head of Lenin. It was the natural, if illegitimate, offspring of a union between Russian Bolshevism and an indigenous American radical movement which almost died in the act of childbirth. Each parent contributed something to the lineaments of American Communism, though its resemblance to the traditional American left has tended to be that of a caricature.
To get a sense of the basic alteration that Communism wrought in American radicalism, it is advisable to read Brissenden’s classic study of the IWW (an organization that more or less represented the culmination of the native radical tradition), now reprinted thirty-eight years after its first appearance, together with Draper’s history of the birth of the Communist movement in this country. The latter is the first comprehensive account of how Russian and American factors combined to produce a domestic Communist movement. After a discussion of American radicalism before November 1917, Draper describes the process by which, under the aegis of Moscow, the Communist party in its present form emerged from a complex series of fissions, mergers, and reorganizations. While much of the earlier part of the book covers material which has also been treated by Brissenden—and by Daniel Bell and David Shannon in their studies of the Socialist party—Draper’s discussion of the early development of the Communist movement forms a unique contribution.
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