American Communism and Soviet Russia: The Formative Period

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview

3
Roads to Chicago

FOR a party that had been treated not so long before as the pariah of the labor movement, the Communist capture of the Chicago convention in July 1923 represented a remarkable achievement. Even if we discount some of it as the result of "packing" a convention, the ability to carry out such an operation amounted to no small organizational feat and took Fitzpatrick's experienced machine by surprise. After three years of sectarian isolation and internecine warfare, the Communists had succeeded in a few months in breaking out into the open, putting into effect a totally new political line, striking up a working alliance with the most promising militant force in the tradeunion movement, and winning over enough of their ally's own followers to take over the joint enterprise. The Chicago experience showed that, given the right circumstances, the Communists were capable of making a speedy and spectacular comeback.

This coup came off because a large section of the Farmer-Labor movement still thought of the Communists as an integral part of a broad, amorphous Left Wing, peculiar in some respects perhaps, but not outside the family of traditional American radicalism. The official persecution of the Communists had gained them much sympathy in Left Wing circles and many free-lance radicals were glad to take them back into the fold. The Communists' allegiance to the Soviet Union constituted no bar, because good will toward the Soviet Union extended far beyond Communist ranks. The policy of the

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