Foster, William Zebulon

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Foster, William Zebulon

William Zebulon Foster, 1881–1961, American Communist leader, b. Taunton, Mass. An itinerant worker in many different occupations, he was first affiliated with the Socialist party, next with the Industrial Workers of the World, and then with the American Federation of Labor. In his early years as a laborer he was profoundly influenced by Marxism. His activities among steelworkers were climaxed by his leadership of the famous steel strike of 1919. With the organization of the American Communist party in 1920, he became a prominent leader and was its presidential candidate in 1924, 1928, and 1932. In 1930 he was displaced as party head by Earl Browder, but on Browder's fall he became (1945) national chairman. He held this position until 1957. In 1948, Foster was charged with advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government, but because of ill health he did not go on trial (1949) with 11 other top Communists. Many of his personal experiences are recounted in From Bryan to Stalin (1937) and Pages from a Worker's Life (1939, repr. 1970). His other writings include Toward Soviet America (1932) and History of the Three Internationals (1955).

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