Leninism in America
In 1919, the Kansas City Communists' Workers World, organ of future Trotskyist leader James Cannon and future Communist leader Earl Browder, had proclaimed 'For centuries the eyes of the oppressed masses of Europe were turned to the West...
'But with the development of industry an industrial autocracy has arisen in the Western Hemisphere more crushing as it is more efficient than the ruling class of Europe and now--And now our eyes turn East--to Russia and the rising Industrial Democracy of Europe for inspiration that we do not grow faint and weary in this struggle for freedom.
'In the West the night cloaks the land. In the East is the Red Dawn of the rising sun coming with the new dawn.' 1
American Communists awoke from their revolutionary dreams to the reality of the 1920s. Pilgrims in the dark-shadowed land, they set out to conquer the capitalist beast in its home lair and to rescue a working class seemingly unaware of captivity. The rampant racism, xenophobia and anti-labor attitudes of native-born America confirmed their worst fears. They needed the light from the East, because they seemed to have none other.
The basic assumptions of American Marxist thought had by now shifted decisively. Nineteenth century immigrant Socialists and anarchists never got much beyond the concept of a workers' republic. Wobblies and Debsian Socialists, in their different ways, had sought to reconceptualize that republic as society (civil or industrial) redeemed from bourgeois deformation. Only the more bohemian Wobblies or Wobbly-oriented bohemians seemed to draw together the futurist implications of the mass society around them. Faith in the national citizen-workers'