The Roots of American Communism

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview
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3
The New Left Wing

THUS FAR, we have been tracing the development of the historic Left Wing. We are now on the eve of the development of the specific Left Wing that led directly to the organization of the American Communist movement.

The transition started with the shot at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The Bosnian student who fired the bullet into the neck of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand also fired into the heart of the international Socialist movement.

In the face of the war the Marxist tradition proved inadequate. That tradition was far from clear cut. Until almost the end of their lives, Marx and Engels had taken the position that wars were engines of social progress and that the most "progressive" side deserved to win. Far from opposing or discouraging war, they had preached and pleaded for several kinds of war, especially one against Czarist Russia, in their view the principal bastion of European reaction. In 1848 they demanded war on Russia to free Poland and save the German revolution; in the Crimean War of 1853 they supported Turkey against Russia and berated England and France for taking so long to get into it; in 1859 they wanted Austria to defeat France; in 1866 they preferred to see Prussia defeated by Austria; in 1870 they favored Germany in the war against France and then changed sides after the German armies occupied Paris; in 1877-78, they were again pro-Turkish in the war against Russia. This tradition prevailed

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