American Communism and Soviet Russia: The Formative Period

By Theodore Draper | Go to book overview

12
American Exceptionalism

WAS all this only a cynical struggle for power? There was more to it than that, if only because in the Communist movement personal differences legitimately express themselves in terms of political differences. What might otherwise be an open clash of personalities for power often takes the form of a grave doctrinal conflict.

Lovestone's victory precipitated a doctrinal conflict peculiar in its virulence, obstinacy, and significance. It was, indeed, the last great open conflict in the American party for more than fifteen years over the old and ever-new issue of doctrine versus reality.

The party that Lovestone took over claimed somewhat less than 10,000 members and was predominantly foreign-language in character.1 Even in its stronghold, New York City, where one-third of the membership was concentrated, it scraped together less than 5000 votes in 1926 and about 10,000 in 1927.2 Its youth movement reported only 700 members in good standing in 1927.3 Even if all the necessary adjustments are made -- the party had many more sympathizers than members, its foreign-born members were least represented in elections, and it held some strategic positions in the garment unions -- American Communism in the mid-twenties still remained a weak and isolated body, battering itself hopelessly against the richest, strongest, and most confident social system in the world.

As long as this reality prevailed, it obviously jeopardized Lovestone's leadership -- unless he could establish in advance that the

-268-

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American Communism and Soviet Russia: The Formative Period
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Note ix
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The New Day 9
  • 2 - The Farmer-Labor United Front 29
  • 3 - Roads to Chicago 52
  • 4 - The Parting of the Ways 75
  • 5 - The Lafollette Fiasco 96
  • 6 - How to Win A Majority 127
  • 7 - Bolshevization 153
  • 8 - Party LIfe 186
  • 9 - Politics and Trade-Unionism 215
  • 10 - Ruthenberg's Last Wish 234
  • 11 - Lovestone in Power 248
  • 12 - American Exceptionalism 268
  • 13 - The Turning Point 282
  • 14 - The Sixth World Congress 300
  • 15 - The Negronn Question 315
  • 16 - The Birth of American Trotskyism 357
  • 17 - The Runaway Convention 377
  • 18 - How to Lose A Majority 405
  • Notes 445
  • Acknowledgments 533
  • Index 535
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