The Revolution Devours Its Children
AFTER 1920, two familiar names soon dropped out of the American Communist movement. John Reed died. Louis C. Fraina ceased to exist.
Important as their contributions were, something else makes these men stand out for special attention--the symbolism of their lives. They went through in the first months of the new movement what many other Communists were to go through in the years to come. Controversy and mystery clouded the end of their lives. An effort to clear up what happened to them has been long overdue.
Reed lived and died an undomesticated American radical. He did not fit into the established order before he became a Communist, and he did not fit into the order established by Communism. For some Communists, especially intellectuals, the act of joining a disciplined movement represents a sharp break in their lives. They may say and do things, in public at least, that they had previously scoffed at. This adaptation to the Communist movement was foreign to Reed's nature. Partly because he remained essentially himself and partly because the movement was still so young that personal patterns of behavior were not yet set, he fought his organizational superiors with a temerity that would have scandalized the John Reed clubs named after him if they had known the man instead of the myth.