The Roots of American Communism

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview
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The Manipulated Revolution

IF THE American Communist movement was born in 1919, it was reborn in 1921. The Communist movement of 1919-20 existed in a world of its own, which later Communists would have had trouble recognizing. But from 1921 on the whole future development became clearly marked out, the road ahead visible, the signposts familiar.

The Communists of 1919 believed piously in the principles of force and violence, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the world revolution. They put these principles into practice by propagating them on any and all occasions, and by propagating almost nothing else. If they had to pay the price of illegality for the privilege, they solved the problem by making illegality a principle. After two years of preaching what they believed, they found themselves in the position of a typical radical sect--small, ingrown, harmless. Those who realized the real plight of the party tried to undo the damage by partially revolting against one of the principles--total illegality. But this partial revolt could not be carried out partially. The implications and repercussions were so far-reaching and fundamental that a new type of Communist movement had to develop out of it. The old type had reflected a period considered imminently revolutionary. The new type would reflect a revolution indefinitely postponed.

As in every struggle within a sect, there were fundamentalists and reformers.

The fundamentalists were not troubled by the fact that they were


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