Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1927

Early American Marxism

Document Download Page for the Year






“John Reed and the Real Thing,” by Michael Gold [Nov. 1927] This article came from the issue of the Communist Party’s artistic and literary monthly commemorating t he 10th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution—a tribute by Mike Gold to his friend Jack Reed. The article is written against the views of Walter Lippmann and other “pale, rootless intellectuals” who smugly claimed that Jack Reed was a romantic, a playboy, and a superficial adventurer. Gold replies “The Revolution is the romance of tens of millions of men and women in the world today. This is something many American intellectuals never understand about Jack Reed. If he had remained romantic about the underworld, or about meaningless adventure-wandering, or about women or poem-making, they would have continued admiring him. But Jack Reed fell in love with the Revolution, and gave it all his generous heart’s blood.” Gold further sees Reed as pivotal in destroying the historic prejudice against intellectuals held by the American far left, noting that for the IWW “the word ‘intellectual’ became a synonym for the word ‘bastard,’ and in the American Communist movement there is some of this feeling.” However Reed “identified himself so completely with the working class; he undertook every danger for the revolution; he forgot his Harvard education, his genius, his popularity, his gifted body and mind so completely that no one else remembered them any more,” thus proving for all time that the line between intellectuals and workers was not impassable. Gold concludes that the “war to end wars” supported by Lippmann and his associates—those who denigrate Reed and the Russian Revolution—was false, a mere “prelude to a more rapacious capitalist imperialism and a greater imperialist war,” but that John Reed had given his life for the “real thing.”



“The Aims and Methods of Young Workers Education,” by Oliver Carlson [August 1927] Oliver Carlson was a former National Secretary of the Young People’s Socialist League (1918-1919) who joined the Workers Party of America and was an active leader of the Young Workers League. From 1925-1928 he was annually the Director of Communist Summer Schools sponsored by the Workers (Communist) Party, including the very first of these events (Waino, WI). This article was written by Carlson for the 1927 YWL Winlock, Washington Camp Yearbook. Analytical and pedagogical in tone, Carlson first addresses the possible criticism that the curriculum at the Summer Schools are “biased”: “We were determined that a definite working class outlook should permeate every subject studied. We openly admitted that all education is of necessity biased, especially that which deals with social, economic, and political problems. Ours was biased in favor of the proletariat. For the benefit of those who demand ‘pure truth,’ let me point out that the working class view on social sciences is far more correct than that “impartial” view which is dished out to the unsuspecting in the public educational institutions.” After discussing the relative effectiveness of various methods of instruction, Carlson advocates relatively older rather than younger students in the schools: “The boy or girl of 14, 15, or 16 years who is still in school has not as yet been forced to shift for himself, to make his own living, and to feel the pressure of the class struggle. To such a one the class war and all other theories relating to it cannot be duly appreciated.” He also advocates a skewing of more males than females for a similar reason, that more men than women are wage workers, particularly in the “more basic industries where the need for theoretical and practical leadership is the greatest.”



“Questions and Answers to American Trade Unionists: Stalin’s Interview with the First American Trade Union Delegation to Soviet Russia,” by I. Stalin; Introduction by Jay Lovestone. [discussion of Sept. 9, 1927] Full text of a pamphlet published by the Communist Party, providing stenographic quotations of a very extensive dialog between Iosif Stalin and a number of American trade unionists and academics in the Soviet Union on a fact-finding tour. Stalin answers a dozen questions posed by the visiting delegates, sidestepping only a query about his concrete differences with Trotsky, before turning the tables and asking a series of questions of the Americans about conditions in their own country. One passage by Stalin the perceived role of the Comintern in the daily life of national parties is of particular interest: “The assertion that the American Communists work under ‘orders from Moscow’ is absolutely untrue. There are no such Communists in the world who would agree to work ‘under orders’ from outside against their own convictions and will and contrary to the requirements of the situation. Even if there were such Communists they would not be worth a cent. Communists bravely fight against a host of enemies. The value of a Communist, among other things, lies in that he is able to defend his convictions. Therefore, it is strange to speak of American Communists as not having their own convictions and capable only of working according to ‘orders’ from outside. The only part of the labor leaders’ assertion that has any truth in it at all is that the American Communists are affiliated to an international Communist organization and from time to time consult with the Central body of this organization on one question or another.... Some people believe that the members of the Communist International in Moscow do nothing else but sit and write instructions to all countries. As there are more than 60 countries affiliated to the Comintern, one can imagine the position of the members of the Comintern who never sleep or eat, in fact do nothing but sit day and night and write instructions to all countries.”



“Expulsion of Trotsky and Zinoviev: Statement of the Central Executive Committee of the Workers (Communist) Party of America.” [Nov. 20, 1927] Two words that absolutely do not exist in the literature of American Communism for the 1919-1923 period are “Leninism” and “Trotskyism.” Both of these terms are ideological constructs which emerged as a byproduct of the faction fight that erupted after the death of Lenin in January 1924, when a number of leading politicians in the Russian Communist Party (Zinoviev, Stalin, Kamenev, Trotsky) attempted to systematize Lenin’s basic ideas as an “-ism,” to portray themselves as the best and most consistent adherents of this new “-ism,” and to anathematize their leading opponents as antithetical to this “-ism.” That said, this document is interesting as an example of how quickly the Jay Lovestone-led Workers (Communist) Party of America issued a public statement approving the expulsion from the Russian Communist Party of Lev Trotsky and Grigorii Zinoviev following the debacle of their Revolution Day public demonstration against the Central Committee of the VKP(b), headed by Iosif Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin. “The Trotsky-Zinoviev opposition has long ago overstepped the bounds of the permissible in a Communist, Leninist Party. The actions of the opposition have long ago reached the point of actually encouraging the enemies of the working class. Now the opposition has come to the stage where it is organizing a new party, joining hands with non-working class elements, enemies of the Soviet Union, becoming the rallying center for capitalist opposition to the Soviet power generally,” the resolution declares. The resolution adds that “Trotskyism is not Leninism. It is the negation of the Leninist revolutionary theory and practice, which alone guided the toiling masses of Russia to success and victory.” Trotskyism is characterized by the CEC resolution as “ultra-revolutionary phrases masking petty bourgeois opportunist tendencies.” The resolution proclaims that “the Central Executive Committee of the Workers (Communist) Party pledges itself to increase its efforts to educate its membership and the American working class as to the line of Leninism and the issues involved in the controversy in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” Without a bit of irony the ultra-factional American CEC adds: “Hail the unity of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist International, leader of the world’s working class. Long live Leninism, the path to victory!”