Essays On Socialism And Communism In The 1920'S

For five decades, students of the left have had access to the reasons why some Black cultural and intellectual figures were eventually dismayed by Communism, through novels such as Chester Himes’ The Lonely Crusade (1947), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) and Richard Wright’s The Outsider (1953), reinforced by Harold Cruse’s brutal polemic The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967).

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Without that latter—the local vitality—the attractiveness of the party would be inexplicable (which certainly seems to be the case in many extant narratives of party history).

In rich detail, Solomon’s book covers the period of nearly two decades from the founding of Cyril Briggs’ magazine The Crusader after World War I to the launching of the party-led National Negro Congress in 1936.

(xviii) On the one hand, Solomon’s book seeks to elaborate the “theory” of national oppression and the road to liberation worked out by U. Communists, Black and white, in their first decade and a half.

On the other, his aim is equally to explore the practical activities against which the evolving theory was tested as this heroic, interracial organization rose up against white supremacism “with unprecedented passion as an indispensable requirement for achieving social progress.” (xviii) Most impressive is the way that Solomon triangulates the development of Communist theory and practice by examining Black Marxist activists and theorists, the national Communist party institutions, and the influence of Comintern (Communist International) policy.

Old Negro, New Left: African-American Writing and Communism Between the Wars by William J.

Maxwell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) 254 pages, .50 paperback.

The book marches to a climax at the beginning of the Popular Front when, at last, in Solomon’s judgment, the foundation of Black/Labor unity is established.

This is achieved through the success of Peoples Front policy in Harlem and the creation of the National Negro Congress, a multiracial organization under Black leadership.

Then, during the 1980s, two scholarly works began to promote a rethinking of the relationship of Blacks to Reds: Mark Naison’s Communists and Harlem During the Depression (1983), and Robin D. Kelley’s Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (1990).

Now we have four new books in 1998-99 that constitute a quantum leap forward in our ability to understand what was achieved by this symbiotic relationship, and what has been lost in one-sided assaults upon the legacy of Communist-led anti-racist struggles by Mc Carthyites, Cold War Liberals and some of the Communist movement’s left critics, as well as by that movement’s incapacity to understand and fairly represent its own remarkable history in the 1930s and 1940s.

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