The Soviet World of American Communism

The documents collected in THE SOVIET WORLD OF AMERICAN COMMUNISM are arranged, with ample introductions, in four chapters. Chapter One, “Orders from the Comintern,” reveals the Comintern’s early manipulation of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), its meddling in the 1936 Presidential campaign and the labor movement, the quick policy revisions necessitated by the Nazi-Soviet Pact and its collapse with Hitler’s invasion of Russia, and the rise and fall of Earl Browder.

Chapter Two, “Moscow Gold,” discloses many details of Soviet financial support. During the 1920’s, Soviet subsidies averaged perhaps as much as $250,000 annually. The figure for the 1930’s was $10,000 to $15,000 ($110,000 to $160,000 in 1995 dollars). Amounts were large in the following decades, reaching a million dollars in 1965. In the late 1980’s, Gus Hall, the American Communist boss, was talking about his work in “the decaying heart of imperialism” and signing receipts for two and three million dollars.

Chapter Three, “Communists Abroad,” clarifies the fates of the two competing American delegates to the Comintern, John Reed and Louis Fraina. Reed’s anger at the Comintern’s refusal to support the Industrial Workers of the World led to a humiliating confession of error. The hapless Fraina was dispatched to Mexico, where he disappeared with some Comintern money. The saddest story is that of Lovett Fort-Whiteman, the black activist who organized the American Negro Labor Congress. Fort-Whiteman went to Moscow in 1930, was denounced as a Trotskyist, and died in the Gulag.

Chapter Four, “Imported Hatred,” documents Moscow’s propaganda campaign in America, especially as explanations were demanded for the purge trials beginning in 1936.

This is an important source, rich in archival information. The scholarship of authors Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Kyrill M. Anderson is superb.