The Farmer-Labor United Front
WHILE the American Communists were caged in the underground, the American scene did not remain the same.
The boom of 1919 gave way to the depression of 1920-22. Prices tumbled, wages sank, bankruptcies multiplied. More than a third of those employed in construction and coal mining and over a fifth of those in manufacturing and transportation were thrown out of work. The farmers in the corn, wheat, and cotton belts suffered most. Farm prices in 1921 plunged to one-third of what they had been in 1920. Hard times gripped the country under the Republican administration of Warren Gamaliel Harding, elected in 1920 as the guarantor of "normalcy."
Moreover, the Communist movement was not the only expression of postwar radicalism in the United States. The Farmer-Labor movement, which arose at the same time, was also partially inspired from abroad, in this case by the postwar Reconstruction Program of the British Labour party, which had favored a "new social order." A machinists' strike in Bridgeport developed into a "labor party" in five Connecticut towns in the summer of 1918. President John Fitzpatrick and Secretary Edward N. Nockels of the Chicago Federation of Labor adopted the cause of a labor party in November of that year. An American Labor Party of Greater New York was organized by local unions in January 1919. Similar movements were set in motion in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, and other