James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (Working Class in American History)

James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (Working Class in American History)

Bryan D. Palmer

Language: English

Pages: 576

ISBN: 0252077229

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Bryan D. Palmer's award-winning study of James P. Cannon's early years (1890-1928) details how the life of a Wobbly hobo agitator gave way to leadership in the emerging communist underground of the 1919 era. This historical drama unfolds alongside the life experiences of a native son of United States radicalism, the narrative moving from Rosedale, Kansas to Chicago, New York, and Moscow. Written with panache, Palmer's richly detailed book situates American communism's formative decade of the 1920s in the dynamics of a specific political and economic context. Our understanding of the indigenous currents of the American revolutionary left is widened, just as appreciation of the complex nature of its interaction with international forces is deepened.











“organize powerfully” at home, the better to “be in a position to establish an international working and ruling class to cooperate with Soviet Russia.” In the published version of his talk, a Workers’ Party pamphlet entitled The Fifth Year of the Russian Revolution, Cannon concluded: “For after all, Soviet Russia is not a ‘country.’ Soviet Russia is part of the world labor movement. Soviet Russia is a strike—the greatest strike in all history. When the working class of America and Europe join

institutions where the destinies of the revolution are decided.”33 The Workers’ Party was not to be so fortunate.34 By mid-1922, factional cliques in the Hungarian émigré leadership had so disrupted the Communist International that Zinoviev looked for ways to disperse the personnel of two contending camps. Pogany was one of the central figures who had to be shuffled off somewhere, and he apparently considered the United States a more congenial place to be put out to pasture than most, talking

machination were in their nascent beginnings, in an exaggerated way, and he projected them both backward in time and forward into the mid- to late 1920s, which he was embarking on reconstructing in what would later appear as American Communism and Soviet Russia (1960). The result was a distortingly dismissive, almost biologically determinative, understanding of revolutionary internationalism as pure and simple communist dictation: “The first change of line was every other change of line in

the hat for the movement. “You are either a soapboxer or you are not,” Cannon later commented. “You are tested by whether you hold the crowd, by the literature sold, and the money given to the collection.” It was the most demanding of agitational activity: “In indoor speaking, the crowd is captive and a poor speaker can get by, but you can’t do it on a street corner.” At twenty-one, Jim Cannon was thus a professional revolutionary, albeit one without a salary. Moving out of his old, familiar

the Communist Party, USA or CP), that he had very much helped to establish. Long after he himself had come to see the party as an impediment to revolution, Cannon saw as victims those won to its struggles through their sincere desire to create a better, socialist, world; to him, they were a radical generation motivated by the best of intentions but misguided by a squandering, Stalinist leadership: “The chief victim of Stalinism in this country was the magnificent left-wing movement, which rose up

Download sample