Early U.S. Communism Revisited
The Communist International and US Communism 1919-1929
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/11/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21501
Book review of Jacob A. Zumoff's The Communist International and US Communism 1919-1929.
Unfortunately, Zumoff's meticulously researched work is frequently marred by the intrusion of the author's narrow political perspectives into the historical narrative. This is perhaps most apparent in the two chapters devoted to the Communists' 1923-24 intervention in the Farmer-Labor Party movement and the Robert La Follette presidential campaign.
The Communist Party, largely isolated from the broad masses of the working class, saw the rise of radical "progressivism" and the movement for an independent farmer-labor party as an avenue to the masses; the third party presidential campaign by dissident Republican Robert La Follette was also seen, despite La Follette's many shortcomings, as an opening for independent politics that revolutionary socialists could take advantage of.
The effort was rife with factional strife and intrigues within both the U.S. Communist Party and the Comintern leadership. While Zumoff documents these conflicts conscientiously, he sheds little light on what the movement supporting La Follette looked like on the ground or why it was so tempting to the leaders of the young Communist Party. Instead he makes repeated interjections on the unacceptability of Communists collaborating with petty-bourgeois forces as a matter of principle.
The reader may agree or disagree with Zumoff's principles, but without more evidence from which to draw lessons, the doors to a healthy debate among revolutionaries on electoral politics is for all intents and purposes closed.