The Reflected Glory
THE EARLY Communists never doubted what it was that made them Communists.
"It was the Russian Revolution--the Bolshevik Revolution of November 7, 1917--which created the American Communist movement," the American Communist leader, Charles E. Ruthenberg, proclaimed. "The Communist Party came into existence in the United States, as elsewhere, in response to the ferment caused in the Socialist parties by the Russian Revolution," he wrote on another occasion. And still later, he reiterated, "The movement which crystallized in the Communist Party had its origin and gained its inspiration from the proletarian revolution in Russia."1
American Communism proudly represented the Bolshevik revolution in the United States. It owed its reason for existence to something that happened five thousand miles away.
Before 1917, the revolutionary outlook in Russia was so gloomy and obscure that it offered little for other countries to imitate. Since it was generally assumed that Russia had to catch up with the West before the material and political conditions would be ripe for a socialist revolution, Russia had much more to learn from the West than the West had to learn from Russia. By common consent, the next stage for Russia was supposed to be a "bourgeois-democratic," not a socialist revolution. Marx had thrown out some hints that Russia might not have to go through the traditional stages of capital-