The Roots of American Communism

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview
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10
The Great Schism

ANOTHER Russian specter came to haunt the American Communist movement as it struggled to be born.

To their American disciples, hurriedly catching up with decades of Russian revolutionary history, the Bolsheviks seemed to have prepared for power by spending most of their time fighting among themselves or against other factions in the Russian Socialist movement. The Bolshevik-Menshevik split of 1903 had been followed by innumerable other splits, always justified as the way to strengthen the revolutionary movement by removing foreign excrescences.

If this was the school of revolution in Russia, what self-styled disciple of Lenin dared say that it could be otherwise in the United States?

In order to take full advantage of its favorable position, the American Left Wing had to make up its mind that it wanted to fight for control of the Socialist party. Demanding a national emergency convention of the party was pointless if the Left Wing had no intention of going to it in order to win a majority and capture its machinery. Denouncing the expulsions and suspensions was meaningless if the Left Wing had no intention of staying in the party.

When the call was issued in April 1919 for the National Conference of the Left Wing to meet in New York two months later, the Left Wing clearly aimed to fight within the party for control of the party. The first notice of the call said distinctly: "The purpose of the Con

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