FOUR months after the American Communist movement was organized, it was driven underground. In so short a period, not much could be expected from the two young parties. But their failure was due to sterility of policy as well as to shortage of time, and of the two the former was far more costly in the long run.
The opportunities for every variety of radicalism on the American scene of late 1919 were immense.
The strike wave was one of the greatest in the history of American trade unionism. The Seattle general strike, the Lawrence textile strike, the Boston police strike, the national coal strike, and the great steel strike all occurred in 1919. The steel strike alone involved 365,000 workers, and it broke out the very month the Communist parties were formed. More workers were involved in labor disputes in 1919 alone than the total number for the next six years. More than fifteen years would pass before the trade-union movement again burst into so much militant activity.
The political expression of the forces that let loose the strike wave was the movement for a Labor party, which to some extent was also inspired from abroad. The postwar program of the British Labour party attracted much attention in liberal and labor circles in the United States. Local American Labor parties, modeled more or less after the British original, began to spring up. The most promising was the Cook County Labor party, whose candidate, John Fitzpatrick,