The Roots of American Communism

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview

2
The Age of Unrest

THE generation to which the first American Communists belonged was tormented by intense doubt and anxiety about the state of American capitalism. The troubled conscience of this generation was fed far more by Populism and Progressivism than by socialism and syndicalism. All of them combined to create a general mood of discontent in the middle class as well as in the working class. The formative years of three typical native Communist leaders--William Z. Foster (born in 1881), Charles E. Ruthenberg (born in 1882), and Earl Browder (born in 1891)--were spent in an America deeply dissatisfied with the status quo.

For over a century and a half, every popular American movement has been openly antagonistic to or keenly critical of the course of American capitalist development. In Jefferson's time, the enemy was the fattening mercantile class. In Jackson's time, it was the monopolistic national bank and the privileged moneyed powers. After the Civil War, the trade unions, the Knights of Labor, the Greenback movement, the Single-Taxers, and many other local parties sprang up to protest in one way or another the headlong onslaught of industrialism. The chief political expression of Western economic unrest in the 1890s was Populism. James B. Weaver, the Populist presidential candidate in 1892, polled more than a million votes on a platform calling among other things for government ownership of the railroads.

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The Roots of American Communism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Historic Left 11
  • 2 - The Age of Unrest 36
  • 3 - The New Left Wing 50
  • 4 - Influences and Influencers 65
  • 5 - The Left at War 80
  • 6 - The Reflected Glory 97
  • 7 - Roads to Moscow 114
  • 8 - The Revolutionary Age 131
  • 9 - The Real Split 148
  • 10 - The Great Schism 164
  • 12 - The Underground 197
  • 13 - The Second Split 210
  • 14 - Spies, Victims, and Couriers 226
  • 15 - The Crisis of Communism 246
  • 16 - To the Masses! 267
  • 17 - The Revolution Devours Its Children 282
  • 18 - New Forces 303
  • 19 - The Legal Party 327
  • 20 - The Manipulated Revolution 345
  • 21 - The Two-Way Split 353
  • 22 - The Raid 363
  • 23 - The Transformation 376
  • Notes 399
  • Acknowledgments 459
  • Index 463
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