The Communist Party of the United States and the Communist International, 1919-1929
The American Communist movement, born out of a left-wing split from the American Socialist Party in 1919, was divided into several hostile organisations that understood very little about American politics, culture or society. In its early years, the Communist International (Comintern) repeatedly intervened into the American Party. Far from hindering the Party's understanding and appreciation of American conditions, this intervention helped transform the Party from a marginal sect of isolated immigrants in 1920, to an important part of American politics in the 1930s. This intervention stemmed from the desire of the early Comintern, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, to create an international revolutionary Communist movement. However, in the mid- 1920s, as the leadership and ideology of the Russian Communist party changed. Under the rubric of building 'socialism in one country', the Comintern now intervened more and more to create a stable, Pro-Stalin leadership. The first portion of this thesis, comprising the first four chapters, illustrates how between 1919 and 1923 Comintern intervention was necessary to politically and organisationally construct a Party. The Comintern helped achieve unity amongst the competing groups; forced the Party to take advantage of the opportunities for legal work; compelled the Party to intervene into the labour movement. The next four chapters examine the change in Comintern intervention between 1923 and 1929. During this period, internecine factionalism, increasingly devoid of a political basis,t ore the Party asunder,and sapped its ability to intervene into society. The Comintern continued to intervene, but largely to play one faction off against another. In the aftermath of the 1928 Sixth Congress, the Party leadership purged first its left, Trotskyist wing, led by James P. Cannon, and within the year, the right, Bukharnite, wing, led by Jay Lovestone. The Comintern then installed a pliant leadership that finally ended factionalism and carried the now Stalinised Party into the 1930s.The final chapter analyses the changing Communist perspective on the 'Negro Question', from ignoring black rights to championing the right of Southern blacks to independence. Here, the Comintern, acting on pressure from pioneer black Communists, insisted that the Party address this important issue.At the Sixth Congress, the Comintern adopted the theory that blacks in the American South were a oppressed nationality, and had the right to form a separate state. Whilst this programme was not in accord with reality, it forced the Party to aggressively fight for black rights, so that by the 1930s it was well known for its stand for black liberation.