The Roots of American Communism

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview
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4
Influences and Influencers

IN VIEW of the preponderant Russian influence in the American Left Wing and Communist movements after 1917, it may come as a surprise to learn that there was very little Russian influence before 1917. It may come as an even greater surprise that a much stronger European influence was Dutch.

The Dutch Left Wing had formed its own organization, the Social Democratic party, as far back as 1909. It contained only a few hundred members, as compared with the thousands in the Dutch Social Democratic Labor party, but three of them were outstanding intellectuals with international prestige. 1 Anton Pannekoek was a famous astronomer. Herman Gorter was a celebrated poet. Mme. Henriette Roland-Holst, a writer, was one of the founders of the international women's Socialist movement. Politically Pannekoek and Gorter were linked with the Left Wing in the German Social Democratic party. Pannekoek worked so closely with the German Left that he was often considered part of it. 2 Gorter was regarded as the "ablest theorist" of the group which was sometimes identified by his name. 3

The popularity of anarcho-syndicalist ideas in Holland, as in the United States in that period, may have been the reason that the Dutch Left Wing was so congenial to the American Left Wing. 4 In any case, there was a simple, direct reason why Pannekoek and Gorter were familiar names to many American Socialists when Lenin

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