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Community Organizer

by don - 2022-10-18 00:32:07 ( in education, research, politics) [php version] rebuild

Since many believe Obama is running the Marxist Biden administration

We might want to look at a history of comnunist organizing,

euphemistically called a community organizing

https://temple.manifoldapp.org/read/philadelphia-communists-1936-1956/section/c5cbd6e3-ed24-4bcb-97b0-da424fc58416

*/the communist as organizer/*

In the period between the Great Crash and the McCarthy era the CPUSA was

the most effective organizing agency within the American experience.=1

In this most politically stable of societies, radicals have usually

battered their heads against the stone wall of affluence, rising

expectations, and Democratic Party loyalty. Within the narrow space of

agitation allowed by the political order, Communist Party activists

built a small but influential organization devoted to organizing

constituencies for social change. According to even the most

unsympathetic accounts, Communist activists played important roles in

organizing the unemployed, evicted tenants, minorities, and workers in a

wide variety of fields. They were central in the emergence of the CIO

and thus in the organizing of workers in heavy industry and mass

production; they spearheaded the defense of the right of black people to

equality before the law and social and economic opportunity; and they

participated in virtually all of the nationalefforts to establish humane

social services and eliminate hunger, disease, and neglect from our

communities.=2

Many analysts question the motives of Communist Party activists, and

there certainly is controversy about the extent of their organizing

successes. Nevertheless, Communist organizing merits serious and

objective consideration. For a period of approximately thirty years,

Communist Party activists and organizers sought out constituents in the

mines, plants, and neighborhoods of the United States. Other left-wing

groups, such as the Socialist Party, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers

Party, and A. J. Muste's Workers Party, also deserve study, but the

CPUSA offers students the best opportunity to examine the dynamics of

organizing sponsored and directed by a radical political group.=3

The organizers under consideration came to political maturity during the

1930s, mostly in an era associated with the Popular Front, and remained

within the Party until at least the mid-Fifties. Indeed, many remained

active organizers and participants after leaving the organizational

framework of the Communist Party. In the thirties and forties, they

modified their Bolshevik rhetoric and participated in antifascist

alliances, worked for modest short-term successes within the fledgling

CIO, and provided support and manpower for a diverse group of radical

and progressive political movements and leaders, including Democrats,

Farmer-Laborites, the American Labor Party in New York, and Communist

Party councilmen in New York City, all under an essentially New Deal

banner.=4

Organizers operating in the greater Philadelphia district had important

trade-union successes and played a key role in organizing unemployed

councils, electoral efforts, tenant rights, and peace, professional

lobbying, civil liberties, ethnically based, and neighborhood groups.

For a period of approximately ten years, from 1936 to perhaps 1947, the

Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, District Three,

played an important if modest role in the political life of the area,

generating ideas, programs, and visions that later became the

commonplaces of social policy.

The Party offered its membership several roles. One could remain at the

rank-and-file level, become a cadre, or rise to functionary. One could

engage in mass work within one of the Party fronts or a non-Party

organization (e.g., the YMCA) or one could become a "colonizer,"

engaging in industrial organizing at the beck and call of the Party. In

addition, one could work within the professional section, providing the

Party with such services as legal counsel.=5

*/rank and file/*

At the lowest level of Party membership were the rank and file, the

proverbial "Jimmy Higginses" who worked within Party clubs and branches,

paid their dues, went to a variety of meetings, and joined the mass

organizations and fronts, often focusing on a specific issue like Spain,

civil rights, or Scottsboro. Such rank-and-filers were at the heart of

everyday activities and what Gornick calls "grinding ordinariness."=6

There was an extraordinary turnover among such members, who often became

weary of meetings,/Daily Worker/solicitations, and office chores.

Many rank-and-filers began their activism while in college or sometimes

high school. The Philadelphia high school movement was quite sizable,

including ASU and YCL chapters in at least eight schools. High school

activists ranged throughout the city, meeting radical peers,

socializing, and developing their own circle of comrades. For those who

entered college either already active or about to be radicalized, there

was an almost dizzying flow of activities, including demonstrations,

marches, sit-downs, leaflettings, fundraisers, dances, parties, socials,

lectures, speeches—and meetings. Always, there were meetings, one for

every night of the week, often more.=7

Enthusiastic, recently converted Communists, like their spiritual

children in the 1960s, had unbounded energy for political work. Most

speak of being aroused and inspired by their sense of the significance

of their efforts, the quality of their comrades, and the grandeur and

power of their movement. Abe Shapiro recalls being engrossed at one time

in the following activities: formal YCL meetings, ASU leadership, a

universityantiwar council (of which he was director), Spanish civil war

relief efforts, a variety of antifascist activities, a student-run

bookstore cooperative, and support work for assorted civil liberties and

civil rights causes. Some activists found schoolwork boring under the

circumstances and devoted all of their time to politics. A few became

"colonizers." In most cases, however, Communist students completed their

degree work, and if they dropped out of school, it was often for

financial reasons. For most, the excitement of campus politics held

their attention and their interest.

Some found Party youth work a path toward leadership, becoming citywide

or national ASU or YCL leaders. Others on leaving campus became YCL

branch or section organizers in different parts of the district.

Many who did not attend college did neighborhood work with the YCL,

often focusing their mass organizational efforts through the American

League for Peace and Democracy. To many youthful rank-and-filers, "the

YCL became . . . Marxist-Leninist theory all mixed up with baseball,

screwing, dancing, selling the/Daily Worker/, bullshitting, and living

the American-Jewish street life."=8

Certainly the first flush of radicalism, the emotional high of

purposeful activity, the sense of accomplishment and of sacrifice for

the good of humanity, the work with fine and noble comrades, the love

affairs with those sharing a common vision, the expectation that the

future was indeed theirs, created a honeymoon effect for most young

Communists.

For some, the fad of radicalism passed upon graduation or thereabouts.

Others simply maintained a regular but distant "fellow-traveling" role

as they entered the work world. And many were disillusioned by the

Party's dogmatism or the great purge trials, the attacks on Trotsky, or

the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Others, including those interviewed,

remained in the Party. The shortest stay was six years, and most

remained loyal for twenty years or more. For all of those who stayed,

the Party and its small subculture became their lives.

Those working at the branch, club, and section levels were rarely on the

Party payroll and had to find work to supportthemselves. For single

people problems were few and life could be lived at a double-time pace,

working hard all day and then organizing and holding meetings every night.

Some young Communists drifted for a time after school, doing Party work

but not settling into anything. Ben Green lived in Strawberry Mansion, a

lower-middle- and working-class Jewish neighborhood filled with Party

people at the time. He did some work with the American League Against

War and Fascism, spoke on street corners occasionally, went to three to

four meetings a week, and helped to start a union local of public

employees at his Works Progress Administration (WPA) office. He

remembers that the Party "made it a big thing" when he shifted from the

YCL to adult membership, but he was still looking at his future with

uncertainty.

Upon completing high school, George Paine felt that "sports were gone"

from his life except for an occasional neighborhood basketball game. He

kept in touch but saw less of old non-Party buddies and did standard

political work, "hustling the paper," going to meetings, demonstrating.

Finally he decided to go to college, suspending but not ending his Party

ties.

One rank-and-filer was a skilled craftsman, "glad of the class I was

born into." He belonged to a conservative craft union and limited his

political work to mass work at the local YMCA. He never really got

involved with a club or branch group but paid his dues, subscribed to

the paper, and worked with comrades to move the "Y" in a more

"progressive" direction. He was quite open about his views, which would

eventually get him into trouble at his job: "I felt that since to me

everything was so clear, they'd hug me."

Tim Palen, a farmer and skilled craftsman who lived in a rural suburb of

Philadelphia, worked with the Farmers Union. A Party rank-and-filer, he

helped farmers get low-interest loans through the union and sympathetic

banks. Palen never involved himself with Party affairs in the city, and

the highest office he held was dues secretary of his section.

Since the Communist Party did not formally label members according to

their rank, it is not always clear who was a rank-and-filer and who was

considered cadre. One former district leader defines cadres as the

people in training for leadership, like officers in an army. The rank

and file are, therefore, foot soldiers, less involved and more a part of

their own neighborhood or plant, more likely to hold conventional jobs,

and more subject to pressures from neighbors, family, and changing

circumstances. Annie Kriegel, who analyzes the French Communist Party as

a set of concentric circles, places fellow travelers who vote for the

Party and read the Sunday Party press on the "outer circle" and

"ordinary party members" in the "first circle."=9

Many observers describe such rank-and-filers as less "Bolshevik"—that

is, more likely to break Party discipline in everyday activity and

closer to the behavior and sensibilities of their non-Party peers.

Harvey Klehr puts it, "Many party members received no training of any

kind, attendance at party meetings was often spotty, and members

frequently ignored or failed to carry out assigned tasks."=10

Almond presents esoteric and exoteric models to distinguish

rank-and-filer from cadre, suggesting that the Party daily press

directed itself to the relatively idealistic and naive external members,

while the Comintern, Cominform, and internal Party journals spoke to

insiders and sophisticated activists.=11

*/cadre/*

The cadre has a "personal commitment." He or she is a "true Bolshevik,"

internally Communized, with an almost priestly function and sense of

specialness. The cadre is a "professional revolutionary" along Leninist

lines.=12

Philip Selznick adds that cadres are "deployable personnel," available

to the Party at all times.=13

Some observers use "cadre" interchangeably with "functionary," while

others distinguish them. I interpret "functionary" as a more

administrative and executive role, usually carrying more authority and

generally associated with top district and national leadership.=14

Cadres were field workers, organizers, sometimes on the payroll but

often holding a non-Party job. Some more mobile cadres lefttheir own

neighborhoods, but most worked at least within their home districts.

(Functionaries, on the other hand, could be homegrown and district-bound

or at the service of the national, even international, office.)

Many studies exaggerate the distinction between inner core and outer

rings because of their dependence on the abstractions of Party tracts.

Almond, for example, claims that the "true Communist" was beyond any

commitment to the Popular Front since he was presumably fully

Bolshevized and aware of the duplicity and tactical nature of moderated

rhetoric. Perhaps this is true of the national leadership, who had

associations with Moscow, training at the Lenin School, and Comintern

experience. At the district level, however, the patterns are not as

clear and seem to be more sensitive to generational, class, and ethnic

variables.=15

Among informants, the word "cadre" connoted "hard-working," "brave,"

"dogged," and "honorable"—someone who followed a Leninist model of

behavior; "functionary," on the other hand, was often used negatively to

imply that someone was "bureaucratic," "aloof," "abstract," and "remote

from struggle"—in brief, the Stalinist/apparatchik/. Neither necessarily

belonged to an inner core.

Fred Garst tells of the "process of indoctrination" he underwent as he

entered into Party life, beginning with "the regularity of systematic

participation"—dues, meetings, selling Party literature. He says that

the number of meetings began slowly to escalate to three, sometimes five

a week: section and subsection meetings, executive meetings, front

meetings. Next, Garst was asked to lead a discussion, then to take

responsibility for organizing the distribution of literature. He started

taking classes at a local Workers School in Marxist theory and labor

history. His commitment grew, his experience deepened, and he soon

became a section leader.

Some Philadelphia Communists moved from rank-and-file to cadre roles

during important political campaigns like theProgressive Party efforts

of 1947–1948. One woman had been serving in a minor capacity—"not

anything earth-shattering"—but was swept up by what Wallace referred to

as "Gideon's Army." She became a full-time Progressive Party organizer

at a district level, her "first real organizing"; from that point on,

she was fully involved in Party work at a variety of levels.

Some cadres emphasized front and mass work, serving as leaders of IWO

ethnic groups, youth groups, and defense groups. Such cadres were

particularly likely to operate clandestinely, although many communicated

their affilitation all but formally to constituents.

Cadres can be distinguished by their level of operation (club, branch,

section, or district), by their funding (on the payroll or holding a

regular job), by their relative mobility and willingness to do political

work outside their own milieu, and, finally, by the type of organizing

they did (mass or front work, electoral party work, industrial

organizing). The most prestigious cadres were those who did full-time

industrial organizing at the will of the Party leadership. Such

organizers, whether of working-class origins or not and whether

indigenous or colonizers, were the heart of Party operations, seeking to

develop a proletarian constituency and a trade-union base.

/ny tisa/

ny Tisa's history shows what an experienced organizer could

accomplish. Tisa, a second-generation son of illiterate, working-class

peasants, went to work at the Campbell's Soup plant in his own South

Camden "Little Italy" after completing high school in the early 1930s.

While working summers at the plant, he had been stimulated by

street-corner radical speakers and had joined the Socialist Party, which

had a presence at Campbell's Soup. The Socialists sent him to Brookwood

Labor College, where he met young Communists who impressed him with

their earnestness and apparent lack of factionalism, a problem he

encountered among the Socialists. He returned to help organize the

plant, starting with a small group of about a half-dozen Italian

workers, none of themCommunists, whom he molded through a discussion

group. His group received a federal charter from the American Federation

of Labor and began to develop an underground, dues-paying membership.

Tisa tells of frustrating experiences within the conservative AFL. At

the 1939 convention in Tampa, for example, he found himself accidently

strolling into a local walk-out of Del Monte workers, just as the police

were arresting the leader. He spoke to thery workers and was himself

threatened with arrest. The workers exclaimed, "You got Bo [the arrested

leader] but you're not gonna get him," and made a ring to escort Tisa to

a streetcar. That evening, at his suggestion, there was a union meeting,

packed and excited. When Tisa tried to speak about this remarkable

experience at the AFL convention, he was refused the floor. Finally he

simply took over the podium and microphone. Later that day, he met with

other militants, including Communists, to organize the ClO-affiliated

Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union.

He took a detour, however, as events in Spain captured his energies and

idealism. Tisa served two years in Spain with the Abraham Lincoln

Brigade, gaining "a sense of internationalism that never escapes you."

On his return, he immediately set out to organize Campbell's Soup.

At the time Tisa began to organize it, Campbell's Soup employed about

5,500 full-time workers, with another 5,000 part-timers who came in

during the heavy season. At least half the workers were of Italian

descent; there were few blacks until the late 1940s. About half the work

force was female. There was a sexual division of labor based on physical

strength. Tisa's organizing group consisted of eleven or twelve key

workers, all leftists, mostly Italian. None were "colonizers." All were

indigenous workers who, under Tisa's leadership, planned the

unionization of Campbell's. Tisa recalls that the group would often go

crabbing and then return to his home to eat, drink, and talk strategy.

Tisa was the only member of the group on the national union's payroll;

he made a bare ten or fifteen dollars a week.

The organizers distributed themselves through the plant, reaching out to

obvious sympathizers and picking up useful information that they would

relay to Tisa, who could not enter the plant. He would take names and

visit workers in their homes, signing them up so that the union could

hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. He would also

cull information about working conditions from his organizers and

publish it in a union bulletin that they distributed clandestinely, each

carrying five to ten copies.

As their numbers increased, they became bolder and distributed the much

discussed bulletin openly. Campbell's Soup had Tisa arrested once, but

when he was released, many workers came to greet him. He assured them

that the law permitted them to organize a union. The company tried many

tactics to block his efforts: they started a company union; they charged

that he was a "Red" and had raped nuns and killed priests in Spain. But

Tisa lived in an Italian neighborhood among plant workers and had a

mother who had worked in the plant for many years (cheering his

speeches, often at the wrong times, he wryly and lovingly notes); he

could not be red-baited easily. He was an open Communist; his neighbors

would say, "ny's a Communist, but he's all right." Despite the real

barrier of the workers'traditional Catholicism, he produced traditional

trade-union benefits for members and was popular enough locally, a

neighbor, to remain in leadership until the CIO purges of the late

forties and early fifties finally forced him out.

Tisa's experience highlights the importance of developing indigenous

personnel in organizing activity. His efforts were certainly bolstered

by support from the national union, by Communist Party training and aid,

and by the relative benevolence of the federal government as expressed

through the new NLRB. Yet the presence of local activists, something the

Communist Party sought but did not often achieve, invariably made the

task of organizing a plant or neighborhood that much easier.

Other organizers performed similar roles without formally entering the

Party, preferring to remain independent although generally taking

positions consistent with Party policy.

/jack ryan/

Jack Ryan's old man was "a union man," later a foreman, a local

Democratic politician, and a bootlegger. As a teen-ager, and a high

school drop-out, Ryan ran poker and crap games in the neighborhood with

a group of friends, some of whom wound up in prison. He worked

sporadically as a roofer, during which time he was influenced by a

socialist "who couldn't read or write until he was twenty-three."

His father finally got him a job at a local plant, where he worked as a

crane operator in the early Depression years until he was laid off in

1931. Over the next two years, he tried a small store and "managed to

hang on," selling water ice and running crap games. In 1933 he went back

to the plant just at the point when the local union was being formed.

Ryan recalls that he was "sworn in in an elevator with the lights out in

between the floors." Despite his emerging radical politics, Ryan

remained on the margins at first. "I deliberately didn't get active," he

says, indicating that life seemed too unpredictable to take chances. In

fact, he entered into a real-estate business on the side, and it

eventually provided him with the cushion that allowed him to become more

active within the plant.

Initially he ran for the general committee, backed by the other crane

operators because of his successful grievance work. Still cautious ("I

kept my mouth shut," he notes), Ryan went along with the conservative

local leadership while maintaining contact with the plant militants,

several of whom were old Wobblies suspicious of any Communist Party

leadership. Ryan worked primarily through his own crane operators'

network within the plant. He played the trade-offs in union posts among

the plant's crafts to become local president, an unpaid post, and

finally business representative, the only salaried position within the

local. Ryanremained close to the Party but never joined. "I was more

radical than they were," he brags. He criticizes their twists and turns

and suggests that "in the end you can't trust any of them" because of

"the goddamn line." He adds that the/Daily Worker/was "written for a

bunch of morons." On the other hand, Ryan admits that Party union

members were often competent and successful organizers and that he

agreed with most of their Popular Front stances, particularly their

antifascism. On the Soviets, he says that he did not spend too much time

thinking about them, but adds, "I don't blame them for having a treaty

with the Germans."

Ryan is clearly concerned with the practical issues of trade unionism.

In describing one of his national officers, he exclaims, "A dedicated

Communist but a helluva guy." He praises L. Lewis's efforts at

industrial unionization: "him and the Commies put together the CIO; they

were the smartest crowd." So Jack Ryan worked with but kept some

distance from "the Commies": "they were a little bit nutty." His union

was one of those expelled from the CIO in the late forties, and he

remains bitter about the Party's role in the union's decline. He

remained active, holding union office on and off until his retirement.

Ryan proudly concludes that he was placed on Social Security while on

strike for the last time in the early seventies.

ny Tisa and Jack Ryan were working-class organizers, with roots in

their ethnic communities, able to establish a rapport with their peers

and, at the same time, develop more sophisticated skills within a

broader and more ideological movement in or around the Communist Party.

Their failures were mostly exogenous, the results of Taft-Hartley oaths,

CIO purges, and McCarthyism in general.

Others operated in less favorable terrain, without the decided

advantages of an indigenous, working-class background. The most

characteristic Party labor organizer was a young, educated,

second-generation Jewish-American sent to "dig roots into the

working-class." The efforts of such organizers were prodigious; their

accomplishments, however, were more problematic.

/al schwartz/

Al Schwartz's father was a 1905er, a Party organizer in the garment

industry who had to open a small shop after he was blacklisted. Al, a

classic "red-diaper baby," went through all of the Party developmental

steps, from Young Pioneers through YCL to full Party involvement. Most

of all he wanted to be a radical journalist. For a few years he was able

to work on the Pennsylvania supplement to the/Worker/, but when it

folded, his journalism career seemed over. Over the next half-dozen

years, Schwartz, now in his late twenties, went into the shops as a

"colonizer." He remembers the sense of adventure and mission he felt

working at a few of the larger heavy industrial plants in the area. Yet

he also speaks of his sense of loss and defeat in having to aban

hopes of writing. Schwartz's response to colonizing was painfully

ambivalent: a college graduate and a Jew, born and bred within the

Yiddish-Left subculture, he both relished the contact with blue-collar

workers and remained distant from them. They were not like him, he

stresses; they were mired in back-breaking labor, poor educations, and

plebian forms of leisure. For a time he enjoyed the camaraderie of the

local taverns, but ultimately he was an outsider, a Jewish family man

and a struggling intellectual. Schwartz most fondly recalls the hardness

and fitness of his body, the feeling that he was young and strong and

physically a worker. But the successes were few, and later the McCarthy

period made such Party efforts even more marginal. Schwartz found

himself a family man in his mid-thirties without a career or a

profession; frustrated and drifting out of Party life without drama or

flourish, he moved to reorganize his life. His political values held,

but his colonizing days were over.

/sol davis/

Sol Davis grew up in a poor, working-class, immigrant household. He was

a bright young boy, and like many other upwardly aspiring Jewish males,

he flourished at the elite Central High School andbegan moving toward a

professional career. At this point, in the early years of the

Depression, he was swept off his feet, as he puts it, by the Communist

Party. After completing his schooling, he worked lackadaisically at his

profession while seeking an opportunity to go into the shops as a

Communist Party organizer; he was "determined to be shop worker."

His first attempts allowed him to learn something about machinery,

although in each instance he was fired for his inexperience and

incompetence. Finally he caught on. "I was in my element," he asserts,

describing the war years in heavy industry. For Davis, the good

organizer had to have a commitment to "the principles of Communism," "a

talent for leadership," and a willingness to listen. A confident

speaker, whose words are clipped and terse, he worked twenty-nine years

in the shops, twenty-six of them at one plant. Located within the city,

the plant was staffed mostly by Catholic workers (Polish or Irish),

initially few blacks, and even fewer Jews.

Davis's recollections are filled with bitter refrains about red-baiting

and "turn-coat ex-CPers," sell-outs and "social democrats." He is proud

of his successes, which include chairing the grievance committee and

serving as shop steward during most of his union years. Davis presents

his life as devoted to organizing in the shops; he never got involved in

his neighborhood and tended to leave Party electoral work to others. A

hard-line orthodox Communist still, Davis argues that those who

abandoned the Party were "petty-bourgeois with petty-bourgeois ideas,"

whereas he "was nursed out of the trade-union movement." In the fifties,

he admits, "life became unpleasant," both in his largely Jewish

lower-middle-class neighborhood and in the shop, where "a certain

resistance developed to my activity" among people he calls

anti-Communist socialists.

Davis believes that most American workers have been bought off in

"discrete and discernible fashion" by imperialist profits, manipulated

by the mass media, and blinded by nationalism, religion, and racism.

After spending almost thirty years in theindustrial heartland, Davis

remains "dedicated to an idea," an "unquestioned belief" in communism.

Yet when asked about his ability to convert workers to class

consciousness, a saddened Sol Davis replies, "Never—the shop was a

desert for me." He did not convert a single worker and was "in that

respect an utter failure." The shops, to the stoical Davis, were "a

cultural, political, and philosophical wasteland despite having made so

many friends." Sol Davis has kept the faith since he was "baptized" in

the movement; his singular lack of organizing success rests, in his

mind, on factors beyond his control—repression, cowardice,

self-interest. He is a confident man.

/ caldwell/

Other colonizers had more mixed results. Caldwell, a college

graduate with a middle-class WASP heritage, recalls that in his initial

colonizing effort, "I wasn't very smart and made a lot of stupid

mistakes—talked to people, became known as a troublemaker." He was

fired. Fortunately for Caldwell, his firing made him a "celebrated

case," and the predominantly Irish and Italian Catholic workers, and

even the conservative union officials, rallied to his support. Caldwell

says that whereas other Party organizers had their best contact in their

own departments, he touched bases throughout the plant and often

socialized at the local bar to maintain and develop relationships. "A

fair number knew I was a Communist," he says. "I never denied it." But

most did not. In most plants to admit membership in the Party meant

probable firing and certain harassment. For organizers like Caldwell,

discretion was the rule.

His efforts paid off against the union's local establishment. The

national, a left-wing union, sent in an organizer to help fashion a

local coalition to defeat the established group, and Caldwell worked

with him as elections chairman. The progressive slate was successful.

Caldwell, a leader of a left-wing veterans' group, participated in the

1946 strike surge. When mounted police chased people ontoporches in

Southwest Philadelphia to break up injunction-defying demonstrations,

the local CIO was able to bring out 25,000 workers to protest against

police brutality in front of City Hall. But such Popular Front-style

unified efforts were shattered by the developing Cold War consensus,

which began to drive radicals, particularly Party members, out of the

unions.

Caldwell shifted jobs in this period, finally taking a full-time

organizing job in a nearby industrial town. The plant had some IWO

members and a few Party members, but no organization. Caldwell, who

observes that "it really became difficult after the Korean War" started,

found some success in putting out a small paper and handing it out at

the main gates. He worked to develop contacts mainly by distributing the

Party paper, first for free, then by subscription. Caldwell remembers

proudly that he won a district drive with eighty subscriptions in his

area. Gains were modest: a Hungarian sympathizer sent him two black shop

stewards; then a few Irish Catholics made contact. Caldwell recalls

going into Philadelphia to see prize fights with the latter workers,

mixing pleasure with discussions of possible articles about their area

for the Party press.

But the times wrecked any chance Caldwell had of developing a Party

group. The FBI scared off possible sympathizers; he was arrested for

circulating antiwar petitions, and the venture finally ended in the

heyday of the McCarthy period when Caldwell was sent to join the Party's

underground.

Caldwell and Al Schwartz experienced the ebb of the progressive union

movement in the late forties and early fifties. Most Party labor

organizers and colonizers, however, joined the fray during the

extraordinary upsurge of the late thirties that established industrial

unionism through the CIO.

/milt goldberg/

Milt Goldberg, despite winning a Mayor's Scholarship, was unable to

continue his education after graduating from Central High School.

Instead, he scratched to make a living at odd jobs, gradually becoming

interested in radical politics. While he wasworking a pre-Christmas job

at Sears, the department store warehousemen went out on strike. Clerks

refused to cross the picket lines. Goldberg recalls that the

increasingly anxious owners persuaded the clerks to return to work with

promises of improved conditions and wage increases that were never

fulfilled; meanwhile, the warehousemen settled. In the aftermath, the

strike leaders were all fired. Goldberg says that many of them were

Communists and that he began to notice how often that was the case: "I

respected the Party people; they were able, talented people."

Goldberg became an organizer for a white-collar union dominated by

mobsters who made deals with management at the expense of the

membership. He describes his early efforts as "naive, inexperienced."

Goldberg played a key role in leading his membership out of the corrupt

union into a new CIO local, whose Philadelphia office staff was

dominated by Party organizers. In those days, the late thirties, the era

of sit-downs and a crescendo of collective bargaining agreements,

organizing was remarkably fluid. Goldberg says that charters were

granted easily and with little need for substantiation or the apparatus

of negotiation soon to appear under the NLRB. In those days, he asserts

with some nostalgia, one could go in and organize a place in one or two

days, present demands to the employer, and make a deal. Such rapid

victories were, of course, exceptions; Goldberg also recalls the often

brutal resistance of management, particularly in heavy industry.

After serving in the war, Goldberg returned to his union efforts,

despite family advice that he try something more prestigious and

lucrative. The union was his life, so he stayed. He never formally

rejoined the Party, although he remained in close contact. The

Taft-Harley anti-Communist oath soon reinforced this decision.

Nevertheless, Goldberg and his small union were red-baited and

constantly under McCarthyite attack.

How did he survive? Goldberg argues that he "was very close to the

membership" and had solid support from his fellow leaders. He emphasizes

that the union provided real benefits and servicesto membership and

sustained their loyalty despite the attacks. In addition, he notes that

by this time the small union did not have a Party group, only him. One

of the more damaging policies of Party-dominated unions was what

Goldberg calls "the resolution bit"—the passing of Party-sponsored

resolutions on every issue from Scottsboro to Spain. Too many left-wing

unions manipulated such resolutions without making any effort to educate

the membership; all that mattered was that local such-and-such of the

so-and-so workers sent a resolution attacking Franco's dictatorship in

Spain. Goldberg dropped such tactics in the postwar period, instead

working with his local's officers and servicing the practical needs of

the membership. By the mid-fifties, still a socialist, Milt Goldberg had

become estranged from the Communist Party.

As is true of most arts, the qualities that make for a successful

organizer are uncertain and descriptions are inevitably cliche-ridden.

As the experiences of ny Tisa and Jack Ryan indicate, having roots

in the work force being organized gives one a decided advantage. But the

Party could use only the troops it had available, and these were for the

most part educated, urban, Jewish Americans, most of whom had no

experience in the heavy industries that were their "colonies." Most of

them experienced frustration; one cadre estimates that 95 percent of all

Party colonizers failed. Too often colonizers were unable to operate in

a sea of Gentile proletarians. Fred Garst, stillry at the Party for

its insensitivity to context, charges that "the Left didn't have any

organizing skills." But some organizers, remarkably, succeeded.

/ike samuels/

Ike Samuels still speaks with an accent that reveals the years he spent

in Eastern Europe before his mother, taking the remains of the family

silver, arrived in the United States. No red-diaper baby, Samuels

describes his youth as "street-wise" and his ambition as making it in

America. Like many others, however, "the whole thing burst into flame"

when the Depression forced him to dropout of school and hunger marches,

bonus marches, and unemployed council protests acted on his emerging

social conscience. Soon he was moving toward the Party and engaging in

union organizing.

Samuels, a gruff, self-deprecating man who often refers to his "big

mouth," rose to leadership within a small craft union and served on the

city CIO council. His CIO union was dominated by a Popular Front

coalition of the Party and a progressive Catholic group. The union

president, a leader of the latter, was incompetent; on several occasions

Samuels had to bail him out of collective-bargaining disasters. Finally

the Catholic faction and the Party faction sought to replace the

president with Samuels. The national Party leadership, however, afraid

of upsetting the delicate coalition, said no. Samuels recalls that he

"didn't even question" the decision, but he was frustrated and soon left

the union to become an organizer for a larger, industrial union.

Samuels agrees with Milt Goldberg that it was relatively easy to be a

good organizer in that period. Labor was in an upswing, workers were

clamoring to be organized, NLRB cards were easy to accumulate. In heavy

industry, Samuels stresses, the key was to seek out the pockets of old

radical workers—not colonizers, he emphasizes—who had broken down the

old ethnic barriers. Many such organizers were members of the IWO

foreign-language federations. Next, one needed the "pie-cards," the

full-time organizers supplied by the CIO itself, many of whom were

veteran radicals. Along with and sometimes among the pie-cards were the

younger Communists going into the shops, supported by a growing and

confident Party organization. A "highly developed structure," Samuels

recalls, was essential to organizing success. One had to develop shop

committees and day-to-day contacts in each department.

The sense of strength provided by the union itself and, crucially, by

its CIO sponsor, allowed workers to imagine that the employers could be

successfully challenged. In the automobile, steel, rubber, mining, and

electrical equipment industries, workers facedmammoth corporations

willing to use any means necessary to throw back the unionist surge. The

New Deal, by encouraging a more neutral judiciary and law enforcement

role, made it easier for the coordinated CIO drives to gain concessions

from corporate heads. Samuels suggests that the workers, some of whom

had backed decades of unsuccessful rank-and-file efforts, needed the

sense that they were a part of a powerful coalition. L. Lewis

appealed to this sense when he proclaimed, "The President want you to

join a union." Such a coalition advanced unionization at the same time

that it necessitated concessions and strictures that limited the

leverage of the newly legitimized unions.=16

Samuels argues that it was imperative for organizers to have knowledge

of their industries. He deliberately worked in a craft shop to learn the

trade and later carefully studied one heavy industry before going out to

organize its workers. He was not typical. Hodee Edwards, a thirties

organizer, stresses "our consistent failure to investigate the

neighborhoods and factories where we tried to work, thus applying a

generalized, sectarian plan usually incomprehensible to those we wanted

to reach."=17

And Sam Katz suggests that the Party did not always recognize the

tension between the leadership and the activist/organizer over the pace

and nature of organizing. The functionaries often pushed for the most

advanced positions, including the "resolutions bit," whereas the

organizers focused on the issues that confronted their constituents.

Conflict was inevitable between broad policy and local needs and

variations, and between policy planners and functionaries and field

organizers and the rank and file. It is clear that the Communist Party

suffered chronically from top-heavy decision making, which often left

local organizers and members with policy directives that made little

sense in local circumstances.

In addition to organizational strength and preparation, Samuels feels

that leadership ability and, at times, personal courage must be

demonstrated. On several occasions he had to take risks or lose the

confidence of his membership. In one local the workers affectionately

referred to him as "R.R.J.B.," Red Russian JewBastard. He tells of

organizing workers in a small Georgia company town. Fifteen hundred were

on strike, and the patriarchal owners were negotiating only under

pressure from the NLRB. They were stalling, however, so Samuels called

on the work force to increase the pressure by massing outside the

building where the negotiations were taking place. The next day, in the

midst of bargaining, Samuels noticed the face of the company's attorney

turning an ash white as he glanced out the window. What he saw were

about three hundred workers marching toward the building carrying a

rope; lynching was on their agenda. Samuels went out and calmed them

down, "modified" their demands, and then wrapped up negotiations. His

early organizing days also included maritime struggles with gangster

elements who were not beyond "bumping off" militants. Samuels implies

that the Left elements fought back, sometimes resorting to their own

brand of physical intimidation.=18

Peggy Dennis describes the Bolshevik ideal as "soldiers in a

revolutionary army at permanent war with a powerful class enemy." And

"in permanent war, doubts or questions are treason."=19

Yet as Joseph Starobin asks, "How could the Leninist equilibrium be

sustained in a country so different from Lenin's?"

In fact, it was sustained unevenly and at a price. In a society with a

tradition of civil liberties (albeit inconsistently applied and

occasionally suspended in moments of stress) and a remarkably resilient

political democracy, the Leninist model, hardened and distorted by

Stalinism, mixed uncomfortably with American realities.=21

At its best the Leninist ideal encouraged the incredible levels of hard

work and perseverance that even critics of Communism grant to its

cadres; it also evoked such personal qualities as integrity, courage,

honesty, and militancy. Yet the ideal seemed to degenerate too easily

into a model of behavior appropriately labeled Stalinist. Communist

cadres accepted deceptive tactics and strategies that inevitably

backfired and undermined theirintegrity and reputations—for example, the

front groups that "flip-flopped" at Party command after years of denying

Party domination. The intolerance and viciousness with which Communists

often attacked adversaries, including liberals, socialists, and their

own heretics, remains inexcusable.=22

As organizers, Communist activists suffered from a tendency toward a

special kind of elitism that often made them incapable of working with

diverse groups sharing common goals. In some periods they turned this

streak of inhumanity against themselves, engaging in ugly campaigns of

smear and character assassination to eliminate "Titoists,"

"Browderites," "revisionists," "left-wing adventurists," or "white

chauvinists."

Moreover, the secrecy within which Communists often operated, while

sometimes justified by the danger of job loss or prosecution, served to

undermine the Party's moral legitimacy. An organizer's relationship with

his constituents depends on their belief in his integrity, and this is

especially true when the organizer is an outsider. Too often, Communists

undermined their own integrity by covering manipulative and cynical acts

with the quite plausible explanation that survival required secrecy. The

tendency of Communists to resort to First and Fifth Amendment protection

during the McCarthy period falls under similar challenges. As Joseph

Starobin asks:

Should left-wingers and Communists have gone to jail in large numbers?

Might they have been better off/politically/, in terms of their/image/,

to assert their affiliations, to proclaim them instead of asserting

their right to keep them private, to explain the issues as they saw

them, and to take the consequences?=23

Communist activists certainly did not lack courage or commitment to a

protracted struggle. Many risked prison, and some served prison

sentences; perhaps as many as one-third of the cadres painfully accepted

assignments to go underground in the early fifties. Their Leninism had

to navigate contradictory currents of Stalinism and Americanization,

militancy and opportunism.

Local Communist activists often lived a somewhat schizophrenic life,

alternately internationalist and indigenous, Bolshevik and

"progressive," admiring the Leninist model of cadre and yet falling into

more settled, familial patterns of activism. There was a clear if often

ignored sexual division of labor: men were more likely to be the cadres,

women performed auxiliary clerical functions and unnoticed but essential

neighborhood organizing.

The Party was also divided between theorists and intellectuals on the

one hand and field workers and activists on the other. As one field

worker proclaimed, "I couldn't be spending hours on ideological

conflicts; I'm an activist, not an intellectual." Many agree that the

bulk of an organizer's time went into local actions and much less went

into discussions and considerations of important theoretical or

programmatic matters.=24

Only a small proportion received the type of ideological and

intellectual training suggested by the Leninist ideal, an ideal that

formally sought the obliteration of the distinctions between thought and

action, intellectual and activist.

In fact, Party intellectuals faced chronic and ingrained suspicion, even

contempt, from Party leaders. Abe Shapiro sardonically charges that the

function of Party intellectuals was "to sell the/Daily Worker/at the

waterfront." He remembers checking on a new Party document on the

economy: "I actually read the document. I wanted to know what the Hell

it was." He found it infantile and far below what well-trained but never

used Party intellectuals and social scientists could have produced. The

Party rarely, except for showcase purposes, relied on its trained

intellectual or academic members; instead, it called on Party

functionaries, often of very narrow training, to write about complex

sociological, economic, and scientific matters. Theory suffered as a

result, and the Party, particularly after 1939, included very few

intellectuals.

Until the mid-fifties crisis, the Party, strangled by Stalinist dogma

and intolerance, was closed to intellectual discourse. Abe Shapiro

finally left the Party because his intellectual training hadgiven him a

commitment to intellectual honesty that he could not shake. Among

organizers, Party arrogance cut off messages from the grass roots.

Orders from what one veteran calls "the Cave of Winds"—Party

headquarters in New York—often contradicted practical organizing experience.

The Party also suffered from insularity. Mark Greenly brought interested

fellow workers to a Party-dominated union meeting. They were curious and

"antiboss" but quite unsophisticated and not at all ready to make any

commitments. Unfortunately, the Party organizer immediately started to

discuss class struggle and a variety of abstract political matters. The

workers were quickly alienated and frightened away, never to return.

Ethel Paine recalls such "inappropriate behavior" as the sectarian

conversations Party people would carry on in the presence of

non-Communist acquaintances and neighbors. Although chronically

secretive about membership, Communists could be remarkably insensitive

to their audience in revealing ways. A successful organizer learned when

and how to introduce more controversial ideas to nonmembers. Training,

including the Party schools, helped to some extent, but most Communists

agree with the veteran organizer who feels that such learning has to be

done on the job, by trial and error. Many Communists, like Sam Katz and

Caldwell, tell painful if sometimes hilarious tales of their own

and others' ineptitude as beginning organizers. Some discovered that

they simply were not suited for the job and would never develop the

personal qualities that make for a competent organizer. Several veterans

insist that organizers are born, not made. Yet relatively introverted

and socially awkward young people, inspired by the idealism and the

comradeship of the Communist movement, did transform themselves into

effective organizers. Vivian Gornick points out that such

transformations did not always survive the collapse of association with

the Party.=25

I did not, however, discover total or near total personality changes

caused either by joining or abandoning the Party.

Although most of the literature about radical organizers deals with men,

it is increasingly apparent that some of the mostsignificant and

consistently ignored organizing within the Communist Party involved

women. The ten women interviewed performed a rich variety of Party

tasks, but perhaps the most important were those not officially

designated, like the informal neighborhood activities organized by Edith

Samuels, described inChapter Five

.

Sarah Levy was also involved in such efforts. Sarah and her two children

joined her colonizer husband, Moe, in leaving the comfortable Party

concentration in the Strawberry Mansion section to live in a nearby

industrial town. She refers to the next three and a half years as "not

the easiest times and, yet to me, personally, one of the best growing

experiences—and I have never regretted it." (Moe's wry rejoinder was

"She didn't have to work the blast furnaces.")

There were only three Party families in the town, quite a difference

from the thirty or forty Party friends they left behind in Strawberry

Mansion. While Moe worked the furnaces and tried to develop contacts

with plant workers, Sarah joined a folk dance group at the local "Y,"

where she got to know Greek, Yugoslav, Italian, and other immigrant

women. Moe, limited in the plant to a small Party circle of colonizers

and sympathizers, was able to socialize with the husbands of Sarah's

folk dancing partners.

Colonizers often ended up working with a local Party apparatus while

their wives, working through neighborhood networks, reached into the

community through its women, older people, and children. Asie Repice

casually but proudly concluded about her work with a community center

during the war years; "I am an organizer, so I organized a nursery." Her

husband was in the service. Moving around to stay close to his base, she

put her organizing abilities and political values to work. Such efforts

remain an unwritten chapter in the history of radical organizing.=26

*/functionaries/*

Few district functionaries other than Sam Darcy achieved any national

stature or had much leverage outside the district. Dave Davis, the

business manager of UE Local 155 and an importantPhiladelphia-area labor

leader, was often elected to the Party's national committee but never

entered the inner decision-making group. Other district leaders—like Pat

Toohey, Phil Bart, Phil Frankfeld, and Ed Strong—were D.O.s sent into

the district and then moved out again to other assignments.

Most district functionaries played dominant roles within the district

committee and ran such important Party operations as the local

Progressive Party and the Civil Rights Congress. They drew meager

salaries, which were sometimes supplemented by Party-related employment.

The Party network, at least during the late thirties and forties, could

place members in some union jobs.=27

Possibly several dozen members depended on the Party for their

livelihood in this way.

*/nonmembers/*

One often encounters Communists who, for very specific reasons, were not

formal Party members. One former Progressive Party leader never joined

the Party but worked closely with district Communist leaders to map

strategy and coordinate activity. Some union leaders stayed out of the

Party to deny employers the red-baiting weapon, and a number dropped out

after the Taft-Hartley Act made a union officer liable to prosecution

for perjury if he lied about current Party membership.=28

*/professionals/*

Some professionals who joined the Party operated at a rank-and-file

level, belonging to a professional branch or club, attending meetings,

and fulfilling subscription quotas. Several recall being highly

impressed with the other professionals they met at Party functions. But

such members—often doctors, dentists, and architects—were on the margins

of Party life.

Many professionals, especially lawyers associated with Party causes,

found membership problematic and chose not to formalize their

relationships with the Party, though they might be members of a

professional club. "I fought against loose tongues," one states."I never

asked a soul whether they were Communists or not." Several left-wing

attorneys stress that they did not want to be in a position to betray

anyone or risk a perjury charge if questioned about their own

affiliations and associations. The law in America is a conservative

profession, and several Left lawyers paid a high price for their

efforts.=29

Another consideration was that the Party sometimes pressured lawyers to

use a particular legal strategy in Party-related cases, and such

pressure was more effectively applied to members.=30

One attorney notes that the Party itself seemed ambivalent about

requiring formal membership. A few district leaders pressured him to

join, while others understood that it was not particularly useful or

necessary.

Some lawyers, whether members or not, found their services very much in

demand. They were needed in labor negotiations, electoral activities,

and civil rights and civil liberties cases. In the late forties and

early fifties, Party-affiliated lawyers found it less easy than it had

been to earn a living through Party-based clients, such as left-wing

unions. Instead they were called upon to deal with the titanic task of

defending Party members indicted under the Smith Act and other pieces of

repressive legislation. Thanks to this demand, as one attorney suggests,

they received special treatment from the district leadership. They mixed

with labor leaders, politicians, judges, and, at times, the national

Party leadership. Several had more contact with the non-Communist local

authorities than district functionaries had. One left-wing attorney

recalls that he had the luxury of criticizing Party policies and

decisions, within limits, because "I was needed, I was special, a lawyer."

More significant than membership was the degree of autonomy a member

had, and this was based on his importance to the Party or his

institutional leverage. A professional could get away with criticism of

the Nazi-Soviet Pact that would not be tolerated from rank-and-filers or

most cadres. A union leader could ignore Party instructions, aware that

his own organization was his power base. A former Communist, George

Charney, criticizes in his memoirsthe "left-wing aristocracy of labor

that rarely mingled with the herd of party members or the middle

functionaries."=31

Such trade-unions "influentials" often had contempt for functionaries

and would go over their heads to top leadership.

Those who entered the Party, at whatever level, in whatever role,

operated within a well-defined organization and lived within a somewhat

insular and often nurturing subculture that provided them with formal

and informal relationships. These relationships eased the often lonely

organizing work. One veteran unashamedly calls his fellow Communist

organizers "the most dedicated, most selfless people in the struggle."

Many would share Jessica Mitford's feelings:

I had regarded joining the Party as one of the most important decisions

of my adult life. I loved and admired the people in it, and was more

than willing to accept the leadership of those far more experienced than

I. Furthermore, the principle of democratic centralism seemed to me

essential to the functioning of a revolutionary organization in a

hostile world.=32

Any tendency to romanticize such activists must be tempered by an

awareness of their mistakes, limitations, and weaknesses, and it is true

that many non-Communists made similar commitments to organizing the

oppressed and the weak. They too merit consideration. These Philadelphia

veterans of the Communist Party are very human actors who worked on a

particular historical stage. Some conclude that their years of effort

never really brought any of their factory and shop constituents into the

movement. Like Sol Davis, they admit that they were utter failures in

that "cultural, political, and philosophical wasteland" of blue-collar

America. Others share the pride, perhaps the arrogance, of one of Vivian

Gornick's subjects:

We're everywhere, everywhere. We/saved/this fucking country. We went to

Spain, and because we did America understood fascism. We made Vietnam

come to an end, we're in there inWatergate. We built the CIO, we got

Roosevelt elected, we started black civil rights, we forced this shitty

country into every piece of action and legislation it has ever taken. We

did the dirty work and the Labor and Capital establishments got the

rewards. The Party helped make democracy work.=33

The road from Spain to Watergate is a long one. Communists, euphoric at

their prospects in the heyday of CIO sit-downs and Popular Front

triumphs, later needed remarkable inner resources to sustain political

activity. They sensed the first tremors from the purge trials, received

a severe jolt from the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, and in

the postwar years faced first political repression and then, more

painfully, internal disintegration and demoralization.

NEXT CHAPTER

seven: problems and crises, 1939–1956


the founder of Black Lives Matter once described herself as a trained

, like Obama, but I could only find this:

https://nypost.com/2020/06/25/blm-co-founder-describes-herself-as-trained-marxist/

On 10/17/22 10:32 wrote:

Since many believe Obama is running the Marxist Biden administration

We might want to look at a history of comnunist organizing,

euphemistically called a community organizing

https://temple.manifoldapp.org/read/philadelphia-communists-1936-1956/section/c5cbd6e3-ed24-4bcb-97b0-da424fc58416

*/the communist as organizer/*

In the period between the Great Crash and the McCarthy era the CPUSA

was the most effective organizing agency within the American

experience.^1

In this most politically stable of societies, radicals have usually

battered their heads against the stone wall of affluence, rising

expectations, and Democratic Party loyalty. Within the narrow space of

agitation allowed by the political order, Communist Party activists

built a small but influential organization devoted to organizing

constituencies for social change. According to even the most

unsympathetic accounts, Communist activists played important roles in

organizing the unemployed, evicted tenants, minorities, and workers in

a wide variety of fields. They were central in the emergence of the

CIO and thus in the organizing of workers in heavy industry and mass

production; they spearheaded the defense of the right of black people

to equality before the law and social and economic opportunity; and

they participated in virtually all of the nationalefforts to establish

humane social services and eliminate hunger, disease, and neglect from

our communities.^2

Many analysts question the motives of Communist Party activists, and

there certainly is controversy about the extent of their organizing

successes. Nevertheless, Communist organizing merits serious and

objective consideration. For a period of approximately thirty years,

Communist Party activists and organizers sought out constituents in

the mines, plants, and neighborhoods of the United States. Other

left-wing groups, such as the Socialist Party, the Trotskyist

Socialist Workers Party, and A. J. Muste's Workers Party, also deserve

study, but the CPUSA offers students the best opportunity to examine

the dynamics of organizing sponsored and directed by a radical

political group.^3

The organizers under consideration came to political maturity during

the 1930s, mostly in an era associated with the Popular Front, and

remained within the Party until at least the mid-Fifties. Indeed, many

remained active organizers and participants after leaving the

organizational framework of the Communist Party. In the thirties and

forties, they modified their Bolshevik rhetoric and participated in

antifascist alliances, worked for modest short-term successes within

the fledgling CIO, and provided support and manpower for a diverse

group of radical and progressive political movements and leaders,

including Democrats, Farmer-Laborites, the American Labor Party in New

York, and Communist Party councilmen in New York City, all under an

essentially New Deal banner.^4

Organizers operating in the greater Philadelphia district had

important trade-union successes and played a key role in organizing

unemployed councils, electoral efforts, tenant rights, and peace,

professional lobbying, civil liberties, ethnically based, and

neighborhood groups. For a period of approximately ten years, from

1936 to perhaps 1947, the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and

Delaware, District Three, played an important if modest role in the

political life of the area, generating ideas, programs, and visions

that later became the commonplaces of social policy.

The Party offered its membership several roles. One could remain at

the rank-and-file level, become a cadre, or rise to functionary. One

could engage in mass work within one of the Party fronts or a

non-Party organization (e.g., the YMCA) or one could become a

"colonizer," engaging in industrial organizing at the beck and call of

the Party. In addition, one could work within the professional

section, providing the Party with such services as legal counsel.^5

*/rank and file/*

At the lowest level of Party membership were the rank and file, the

proverbial "Jimmy Higginses" who worked within Party clubs and

branches, paid their dues, went to a variety of meetings, and joined

the mass organizations and fronts, often focusing on a specific issue

like Spain, civil rights, or Scottsboro. Such rank-and-filers were at

the heart of everyday activities and what Gornick calls "grinding

ordinariness."^6

There was an extraordinary turnover among such members, who often

became weary of meetings,/Daily Worker/solicitations, and office chores.

Many rank-and-filers began their activism while in college or

sometimes high school. The Philadelphia high school movement was quite

sizable, including ASU and YCL chapters in at least eight schools.

High school activists ranged throughout the city, meeting radical

peers, socializing, and developing their own circle of comrades. For

those who entered college either already active or about to be

radicalized, there was an almost dizzying flow of activities,

including demonstrations, marches, sit-downs, leaflettings,

fundraisers, dances, parties, socials, lectures, speeches—and

meetings. Always, there were meetings, one for every night of the

week, often more.^7

Enthusiastic, recently converted Communists, like their spiritual

children in the 1960s, had unbounded energy for political work. Most

speak of being aroused and inspired by their sense of the significance

of their efforts, the quality of their comrades, and the grandeur and

power of their movement. Abe Shapiro recalls being engrossed at one

time in the following activities: formal YCL meetings, ASU leadership,

a universityantiwar council (of which he was director), Spanish civil

war relief efforts, a variety of antifascist activities, a student-run

bookstore cooperative, and support work for assorted civil liberties

and civil rights causes. Some activists found schoolwork boring under

the circumstances and devoted all of their time to politics. A few

became "colonizers." In most cases, however, Communist students

completed their degree work, and if they dropped out of school, it was

often for financial reasons. For most, the excitement of campus

politics held their attention and their interest.

Some found Party youth work a path toward leadership, becoming

citywide or national ASU or YCL leaders. Others on leaving campus

became YCL branch or section organizers in different parts of the

district.

Many who did not attend college did neighborhood work with the YCL,

often focusing their mass organizational efforts through the American

League for Peace and Democracy. To many youthful rank-and-filers, "the

YCL became . . . Marxist-Leninist theory all mixed up with baseball,

screwing, dancing, selling the/Daily Worker/, bullshitting, and living

the American-Jewish street life."^8

Certainly the first flush of radicalism, the emotional high of

purposeful activity, the sense of accomplishment and of sacrifice for

the good of humanity, the work with fine and noble comrades, the love

affairs with those sharing a common vision, the expectation that the

future was indeed theirs, created a honeymoon effect for most young

Communists.

For some, the fad of radicalism passed upon graduation or thereabouts.

Others simply maintained a regular but distant "fellow-traveling" role

as they entered the work world. And many were disillusioned by the

Party's dogmatism or the great purge trials, the attacks on Trotsky,

or the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Others, including those

interviewed, remained in the Party. The shortest stay was six years,

and most remained loyal for twenty years or more. For all of those who

stayed, the Party and its small subculture became their lives.

Those working at the branch, club, and section levels were rarely on

the Party payroll and had to find work to supportthemselves. For

single people problems were few and life could be lived at a

double-time pace, working hard all day and then organizing and holding

meetings every night.

Some young Communists drifted for a time after school, doing Party

work but not settling into anything. Ben Green lived in Strawberry

Mansion, a lower-middle- and working-class Jewish neighborhood filled

with Party people at the time. He did some work with the American

League Against War and Fascism, spoke on street corners occasionally,

went to three to four meetings a week, and helped to start a union

local of public employees at his Works Progress Administration (WPA)

office. He remembers that the Party "made it a big thing" when he

shifted from the YCL to adult membership, but he was still looking at

his future with uncertainty.

Upon completing high school, George Paine felt that "sports were gone"

from his life except for an occasional neighborhood basketball game.

He kept in touch but saw less of old non-Party buddies and did

standard political work, "hustling the paper," going to meetings,

demonstrating. Finally he decided to go to college, suspending but not

ending his Party ties.

One rank-and-filer was a skilled craftsman, "glad of the class I was

born into." He belonged to a conservative craft union and limited his

political work to mass work at the local YMCA. He never really got

involved with a club or branch group but paid his dues, subscribed to

the paper, and worked with comrades to move the "Y" in a more

"progressive" direction. He was quite open about his views, which

would eventually get him into trouble at his job: "I felt that since

to me everything was so clear, they'd hug me."

Tim Palen, a farmer and skilled craftsman who lived in a rural suburb

of Philadelphia, worked with the Farmers Union. A Party

rank-and-filer, he helped farmers get low-interest loans through the

union and sympathetic banks. Palen never involved himself with Party

affairs in the city, and the highest office he held was dues secretary

of his section.

Since the Communist Party did not formally label members according to

their rank, it is not always clear who was a rank-and-filer and who

was considered cadre. One former district leader defines cadres as the

people in training for leadership, like officers in an army. The rank

and file are, therefore, foot soldiers, less involved and more a part

of their own neighborhood or plant, more likely to hold conventional

jobs, and more subject to pressures from neighbors, family, and

changing circumstances. Annie Kriegel, who analyzes the French

Communist Party as a set of concentric circles, places fellow

travelers who vote for the Party and read the Sunday Party press on

the "outer circle" and "ordinary party members" in the "first

circle."^9

Many observers describe such rank-and-filers as less "Bolshevik"—that

is, more likely to break Party discipline in everyday activity and

closer to the behavior and sensibilities of their non-Party peers.

Harvey Klehr puts it, "Many party members received no training of any

kind, attendance at party meetings was often spotty, and members

frequently ignored or failed to carry out assigned tasks."^10

Almond presents esoteric and exoteric models to distinguish

rank-and-filer from cadre, suggesting that the Party daily press

directed itself to the relatively idealistic and naive external

members, while the Comintern, Cominform, and internal Party journals

spoke to insiders and sophisticated activists.^11

*/cadre/*

The cadre has a "personal commitment." He or she is a "true

Bolshevik," internally Communized, with an almost priestly function

and sense of specialness. The cadre is a "professional revolutionary"

along Leninist lines.^12

Philip Selznick adds that cadres are "deployable personnel," available

to the Party at all times.^13

Some observers use "cadre" interchangeably with "functionary," while

others distinguish them. I interpret "functionary" as a more

administrative and executive role, usually carrying more authority and

generally associated with top district and national leadership.^14

Cadres were field workers, organizers, sometimes on the payroll but

often holding a non-Party job. Some more mobile cadres lefttheir own

neighborhoods, but most worked at least within their home districts.

(Functionaries, on the other hand, could be homegrown and

district-bound or at the service of the national, even international,

office.)

Many studies exaggerate the distinction between inner core and outer

rings because of their dependence on the abstractions of Party tracts.

Almond, for example, claims that the "true Communist" was beyond any

commitment to the Popular Front since he was presumably fully

Bolshevized and aware of the duplicity and tactical nature of

moderated rhetoric. Perhaps this is true of the national leadership,

who had associations with Moscow, training at the Lenin School, and

Comintern experience. At the district level, however, the patterns are

not as clear and seem to be more sensitive to generational, class, and

ethnic variables.^15

Among informants, the word "cadre" connoted "hard-working," "brave,"

"dogged," and "honorable"—someone who followed a Leninist model of

behavior; "functionary," on the other hand, was often used negatively

to imply that someone was "bureaucratic," "aloof," "abstract," and

"remote from struggle"—in brief, the Stalinist/apparatchik/. Neither

necessarily belonged to an inner core.

Fred Garst tells of the "process of indoctrination" he underwent as he

entered into Party life, beginning with "the regularity of systematic

participation"—dues, meetings, selling Party literature. He says that

the number of meetings began slowly to escalate to three, sometimes

five a week: section and subsection meetings, executive meetings,

front meetings. Next, Garst was asked to lead a discussion, then to

take responsibility for organizing the distribution of literature. He

started taking classes at a local Workers School in Marxist theory and

labor history. His commitment grew, his experience deepened, and he

soon became a section leader.

Some Philadelphia Communists moved from rank-and-file to cadre roles

during important political campaigns like theProgressive Party efforts

of 1947–1948. One woman had been serving in a minor capacity—"not

anything earth-shattering"—but was swept up by what Wallace referred

to as "Gideon's Army." She became a full-time Progressive Party

organizer at a district level, her "first real organizing"; from that

point on, she was fully involved in Party work at a variety of levels.

Some cadres emphasized front and mass work, serving as leaders of IWO

ethnic groups, youth groups, and defense groups. Such cadres were

particularly likely to operate clandestinely, although many

communicated their affilitation all but formally to constituents.

Cadres can be distinguished by their level of operation (club, branch,

section, or district), by their funding (on the payroll or holding a

regular job), by their relative mobility and willingness to do

political work outside their own milieu, and, finally, by the type of

organizing they did (mass or front work, electoral party work,

industrial organizing). The most prestigious cadres were those who did

full-time industrial organizing at the will of the Party leadership.

Such organizers, whether of working-class origins or not and whether

indigenous or colonizers, were the heart of Party operations, seeking

to develop a proletarian constituency and a trade-union base.

/ny tisa/

ny Tisa's history shows what an experienced organizer could

accomplish. Tisa, a second-generation son of illiterate, working-class

peasants, went to work at the Campbell's Soup plant in his own South

Camden "Little Italy" after completing high school in the early 1930s.

While working summers at the plant, he had been stimulated by

street-corner radical speakers and had joined the Socialist Party,

which had a presence at Campbell's Soup. The Socialists sent him to

Brookwood Labor College, where he met young Communists who impressed

him with their earnestness and apparent lack of factionalism, a

problem he encountered among the Socialists. He returned to help

organize the plant, starting with a small group of about a half-dozen

Italian workers, none of themCommunists, whom he molded through a

discussion group. His group received a federal charter from the

American Federation of Labor and began to develop an underground,

dues-paying membership.

Tisa tells of frustrating experiences within the conservative AFL. At

the 1939 convention in Tampa, for example, he found himself accidently

strolling into a local walk-out of Del Monte workers, just as the

police were arresting the leader. He spoke to thery workers and

was himself threatened with arrest. The workers exclaimed, "You got Bo

[the arrested leader] but you're not gonna get him," and made a ring

to escort Tisa to a streetcar. That evening, at his suggestion, there

was a union meeting, packed and excited. When Tisa tried to speak

about this remarkable experience at the AFL convention, he was refused

the floor. Finally he simply took over the podium and microphone.

Later that day, he met with other militants, including Communists, to

organize the ClO-affiliated Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union.

He took a detour, however, as events in Spain captured his energies

and idealism. Tisa served two years in Spain with the Abraham Lincoln

Brigade, gaining "a sense of internationalism that never escapes you."

On his return, he immediately set out to organize Campbell's Soup.

At the time Tisa began to organize it, Campbell's Soup employed about

5,500 full-time workers, with another 5,000 part-timers who came in

during the heavy season. At least half the workers were of Italian

descent; there were few blacks until the late 1940s. About half the

work force was female. There was a sexual division of labor based on

physical strength. Tisa's organizing group consisted of eleven or

twelve key workers, all leftists, mostly Italian. None were

"colonizers." All were indigenous workers who, under Tisa's

leadership, planned the unionization of Campbell's. Tisa recalls that

the group would often go crabbing and then return to his home to eat,

drink, and talk strategy. Tisa was the only member of the group on the

national union's payroll; he made a bare ten or fifteen dollars a week.

The organizers distributed themselves through the plant, reaching out

to obvious sympathizers and picking up useful information that they

would relay to Tisa, who could not enter the plant. He would take

names and visit workers in their homes, signing them up so that the

union could hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. He

would also cull information about working conditions from his

organizers and publish it in a union bulletin that they distributed

clandestinely, each carrying five to ten copies.

As their numbers increased, they became bolder and distributed the

much discussed bulletin openly. Campbell's Soup had Tisa arrested

once, but when he was released, many workers came to greet him. He

assured them that the law permitted them to organize a union. The

company tried many tactics to block his efforts: they started a

company union; they charged that he was a "Red" and had raped nuns and

killed priests in Spain. But Tisa lived in an Italian neighborhood

among plant workers and had a mother who had worked in the plant for

many years (cheering his speeches, often at the wrong times, he wryly

and lovingly notes); he could not be red-baited easily. He was an open

Communist; his neighbors would say, "ny's a Communist, but he's

all right." Despite the real barrier of the workers'traditional

Catholicism, he produced traditional trade-union benefits for members

and was popular enough locally, a neighbor, to remain in leadership

until the CIO purges of the late forties and early fifties finally

forced him out.

Tisa's experience highlights the importance of developing indigenous

personnel in organizing activity. His efforts were certainly bolstered

by support from the national union, by Communist Party training and

aid, and by the relative benevolence of the federal government as

expressed through the new NLRB. Yet the presence of local activists,

something the Communist Party sought but did not often achieve,

invariably made the task of organizing a plant or neighborhood that

much easier.

Other organizers performed similar roles without formally entering the

Party, preferring to remain independent although generally taking

positions consistent with Party policy.

/jack ryan/

Jack Ryan's old man was "a union man," later a foreman, a local

Democratic politician, and a bootlegger. As a teen-ager, and a high

school drop-out, Ryan ran poker and crap games in the neighborhood

with a group of friends, some of whom wound up in prison. He worked

sporadically as a roofer, during which time he was influenced by a

socialist "who couldn't read or write until he was twenty-three."

His father finally got him a job at a local plant, where he worked as

a crane operator in the early Depression years until he was laid off

in 1931. Over the next two years, he tried a small store and "managed

to hang on," selling water ice and running crap games. In 1933 he went

back to the plant just at the point when the local union was being

formed. Ryan recalls that he was "sworn in in an elevator with the

lights out in between the floors." Despite his emerging radical

politics, Ryan remained on the margins at first. "I deliberately

didn't get active," he says, indicating that life seemed too

unpredictable to take chances. In fact, he entered into a real-estate

business on the side, and it eventually provided him with the cushion

that allowed him to become more active within the plant.

Initially he ran for the general committee, backed by the other crane

operators because of his successful grievance work. Still cautious ("I

kept my mouth shut," he notes), Ryan went along with the conservative

local leadership while maintaining contact with the plant militants,

several of whom were old Wobblies suspicious of any Communist Party

leadership. Ryan worked primarily through his own crane operators'

network within the plant. He played the trade-offs in union posts

among the plant's crafts to become local president, an unpaid post,

and finally business representative, the only salaried position within

the local. Ryanremained close to the Party but never joined. "I was

more radical than they were," he brags. He criticizes their twists and

turns and suggests that "in the end you can't trust any of them"

because of "the goddamn line." He adds that the/Daily Worker/was

"written for a bunch of morons." On the other hand, Ryan admits that

Party union members were often competent and successful organizers and

that he agreed with most of their Popular Front stances, particularly

their antifascism. On the Soviets, he says that he did not spend too

much time thinking about them, but adds, "I don't blame them for

having a treaty with the Germans."

Ryan is clearly concerned with the practical issues of trade unionism.

In describing one of his national officers, he exclaims, "A dedicated

Communist but a helluva guy." He praises L. Lewis's efforts at

industrial unionization: "him and the Commies put together the CIO;

they were the smartest crowd." So Jack Ryan worked with but kept some

distance from "the Commies": "they were a little bit nutty." His union

was one of those expelled from the CIO in the late forties, and he

remains bitter about the Party's role in the union's decline. He

remained active, holding union office on and off until his retirement.

Ryan proudly concludes that he was placed on Social Security while on

strike for the last time in the early seventies.

ny Tisa and Jack Ryan were working-class organizers, with roots in

their ethnic communities, able to establish a rapport with their peers

and, at the same time, develop more sophisticated skills within a

broader and more ideological movement in or around the Communist

Party. Their failures were mostly exogenous, the results of

Taft-Hartley oaths, CIO purges, and McCarthyism in general.

Others operated in less favorable terrain, without the decided

advantages of an indigenous, working-class background. The most

characteristic Party labor organizer was a young, educated,

second-generation Jewish-American sent to "dig roots into the

working-class." The efforts of such organizers were prodigious; their

accomplishments, however, were more problematic.

/al schwartz/

Al Schwartz's father was a 1905er, a Party organizer in the garment

industry who had to open a small shop after he was blacklisted. Al, a

classic "red-diaper baby," went through all of the Party developmental

steps, from Young Pioneers through YCL to full Party involvement. Most

of all he wanted to be a radical journalist. For a few years he was

able to work on the Pennsylvania supplement to the/Worker/, but when

it folded, his journalism career seemed over. Over the next half-dozen

years, Schwartz, now in his late twenties, went into the shops as a

"colonizer." He remembers the sense of adventure and mission he felt

working at a few of the larger heavy industrial plants in the area.

Yet he also speaks of his sense of loss and defeat in having to

aban hopes of writing. Schwartz's response to colonizing was

painfully ambivalent: a college graduate and a Jew, born and bred

within the Yiddish-Left subculture, he both relished the contact with

blue-collar workers and remained distant from them. They were not like

him, he stresses; they were mired in back-breaking labor, poor

educations, and plebian forms of leisure. For a time he enjoyed the

camaraderie of the local taverns, but ultimately he was an outsider, a

Jewish family man and a struggling intellectual. Schwartz most fondly

recalls the hardness and fitness of his body, the feeling that he was

young and strong and physically a worker. But the successes were few,

and later the McCarthy period made such Party efforts even more

marginal. Schwartz found himself a family man in his mid-thirties

without a career or a profession; frustrated and drifting out of Party

life without drama or flourish, he moved to reorganize his life. His

political values held, but his colonizing days were over.

/sol davis/

Sol Davis grew up in a poor, working-class, immigrant household. He

was a bright young boy, and like many other upwardly aspiring Jewish

males, he flourished at the elite Central High School andbegan moving

toward a professional career. At this point, in the early years of the

Depression, he was swept off his feet, as he puts it, by the Communist

Party. After completing his schooling, he worked lackadaisically at

his profession while seeking an opportunity to go into the shops as a

Communist Party organizer; he was "determined to be shop worker."

His first attempts allowed him to learn something about machinery,

although in each instance he was fired for his inexperience and

incompetence. Finally he caught on. "I was in my element," he asserts,

describing the war years in heavy industry. For Davis, the good

organizer had to have a commitment to "the principles of Communism,"

"a talent for leadership," and a willingness to listen. A confident

speaker, whose words are clipped and terse, he worked twenty-nine

years in the shops, twenty-six of them at one plant. Located within

the city, the plant was staffed mostly by Catholic workers (Polish or

Irish), initially few blacks, and even fewer Jews.

Davis's recollections are filled with bitter refrains about

red-baiting and "turn-coat ex-CPers," sell-outs and "social

democrats." He is proud of his successes, which include chairing the

grievance committee and serving as shop steward during most of his

union years. Davis presents his life as devoted to organizing in the

shops; he never got involved in his neighborhood and tended to leave

Party electoral work to others. A hard-line orthodox Communist still,

Davis argues that those who abandoned the Party were "petty-bourgeois

with petty-bourgeois ideas," whereas he "was nursed out of the

trade-union movement." In the fifties, he admits, "life became

unpleasant," both in his largely Jewish lower-middle-class

neighborhood and in the shop, where "a certain resistance developed to

my activity" among people he calls anti-Communist socialists.

Davis believes that most American workers have been bought off in

"discrete and discernible fashion" by imperialist profits, manipulated

by the mass media, and blinded by nationalism, religion, and racism.

After spending almost thirty years in theindustrial heartland, Davis

remains "dedicated to an idea," an "unquestioned belief" in communism.

Yet when asked about his ability to convert workers to class

consciousness, a saddened Sol Davis replies, "Never—the shop was a

desert for me." He did not convert a single worker and was "in that

respect an utter failure." The shops, to the stoical Davis, were "a

cultural, political, and philosophical wasteland despite having made

so many friends." Sol Davis has kept the faith since he was "baptized"

in the movement; his singular lack of organizing success rests, in his

mind, on factors beyond his control—repression, cowardice,

self-interest. He is a confident man.

/ caldwell/

Other colonizers had more mixed results. Caldwell, a college

graduate with a middle-class WASP heritage, recalls that in his

initial colonizing effort, "I wasn't very smart and made a lot of

stupid mistakes—talked to people, became known as a troublemaker." He

was fired. Fortunately for Caldwell, his firing made him a "celebrated

case," and the predominantly Irish and Italian Catholic workers, and

even the conservative union officials, rallied to his support.

Caldwell says that whereas other Party organizers had their best

contact in their own departments, he touched bases throughout the

plant and often socialized at the local bar to maintain and develop

relationships. "A fair number knew I was a Communist," he says. "I

never denied it." But most did not. In most plants to admit membership

in the Party meant probable firing and certain harassment. For

organizers like Caldwell, discretion was the rule.

His efforts paid off against the union's local establishment. The

national, a left-wing union, sent in an organizer to help fashion a

local coalition to defeat the established group, and Caldwell worked

with him as elections chairman. The progressive slate was successful.

Caldwell, a leader of a left-wing veterans' group, participated in the

1946 strike surge. When mounted police chased people ontoporches in

Southwest Philadelphia to break up injunction-defying demonstrations,

the local CIO was able to bring out 25,000 workers to protest against

police brutality in front of City Hall. But such Popular Front-style

unified efforts were shattered by the developing Cold War consensus,

which began to drive radicals, particularly Party members, out of the

unions.

Caldwell shifted jobs in this period, finally taking a full-time

organizing job in a nearby industrial town. The plant had some IWO

members and a few Party members, but no organization. Caldwell, who

observes that "it really became difficult after the Korean War"

started, found some success in putting out a small paper and handing

it out at the main gates. He worked to develop contacts mainly by

distributing the Party paper, first for free, then by subscription.

Caldwell remembers proudly that he won a district drive with eighty

subscriptions in his area. Gains were modest: a Hungarian sympathizer

sent him two black shop stewards; then a few Irish Catholics made

contact. Caldwell recalls going into Philadelphia to see prize fights

with the latter workers, mixing pleasure with discussions of possible

articles about their area for the Party press.

But the times wrecked any chance Caldwell had of developing a Party

group. The FBI scared off possible sympathizers; he was arrested for

circulating antiwar petitions, and the venture finally ended in the

heyday of the McCarthy period when Caldwell was sent to join the

Party's underground.

Caldwell and Al Schwartz experienced the ebb of the progressive union

movement in the late forties and early fifties. Most Party labor

organizers and colonizers, however, joined the fray during the

extraordinary upsurge of the late thirties that established industrial

unionism through the CIO.

/milt goldberg/

Milt Goldberg, despite winning a Mayor's Scholarship, was unable to

continue his education after graduating from Central High School.

Instead, he scratched to make a living at odd jobs, gradually becoming

interested in radical politics. While he wasworking a pre-Christmas

job at Sears, the department store warehousemen went out on strike.

Clerks refused to cross the picket lines. Goldberg recalls that the

increasingly anxious owners persuaded the clerks to return to work

with promises of improved conditions and wage increases that were

never fulfilled; meanwhile, the warehousemen settled. In the

aftermath, the strike leaders were all fired. Goldberg says that many

of them were Communists and that he began to notice how often that was

the case: "I respected the Party people; they were able, talented people."

Goldberg became an organizer for a white-collar union dominated by

mobsters who made deals with management at the expense of the

membership. He describes his early efforts as "naive, inexperienced."

Goldberg played a key role in leading his membership out of the

corrupt union into a new CIO local, whose Philadelphia office staff

was dominated by Party organizers. In those days, the late thirties,

the era of sit-downs and a crescendo of collective bargaining

agreements, organizing was remarkably fluid. Goldberg says that

charters were granted easily and with little need for substantiation

or the apparatus of negotiation soon to appear under the NLRB. In

those days, he asserts with some nostalgia, one could go in and

organize a place in one or two days, present demands to the employer,

and make a deal. Such rapid victories were, of course, exceptions;

Goldberg also recalls the often brutal resistance of management,

particularly in heavy industry.

After serving in the war, Goldberg returned to his union efforts,

despite family advice that he try something more prestigious and

lucrative. The union was his life, so he stayed. He never formally

rejoined the Party, although he remained in close contact. The

Taft-Harley anti-Communist oath soon reinforced this decision.

Nevertheless, Goldberg and his small union were red-baited and

constantly under McCarthyite attack.

How did he survive? Goldberg argues that he "was very close to the

membership" and had solid support from his fellow leaders. He

emphasizes that the union provided real benefits and servicesto

membership and sustained their loyalty despite the attacks. In

addition, he notes that by this time the small union did not have a

Party group, only him. One of the more damaging policies of

Party-dominated unions was what Goldberg calls "the resolution

bit"—the passing of Party-sponsored resolutions on every issue from

Scottsboro to Spain. Too many left-wing unions manipulated such

resolutions without making any effort to educate the membership; all

that mattered was that local such-and-such of the so-and-so workers

sent a resolution attacking Franco's dictatorship in Spain. Goldberg

dropped such tactics in the postwar period, instead working with his

local's officers and servicing the practical needs of the membership.

By the mid-fifties, still a socialist, Milt Goldberg had become

estranged from the Communist Party.

As is true of most arts, the qualities that make for a successful

organizer are uncertain and descriptions are inevitably cliche-ridden.

As the experiences of ny Tisa and Jack Ryan indicate, having roots

in the work force being organized gives one a decided advantage. But

the Party could use only the troops it had available, and these were

for the most part educated, urban, Jewish Americans, most of whom had

no experience in the heavy industries that were their "colonies." Most

of them experienced frustration; one cadre estimates that 95 percent

of all Party colonizers failed. Too often colonizers were unable to

operate in a sea of Gentile proletarians. Fred Garst, stillry at

the Party for its insensitivity to context, charges that "the Left

didn't have any organizing skills." But some organizers, remarkably,

succeeded.

/ike samuels/

Ike Samuels still speaks with an accent that reveals the years he

spent in Eastern Europe before his mother, taking the remains of the

family silver, arrived in the United States. No red-diaper baby,

Samuels describes his youth as "street-wise" and his ambition as

making it in America. Like many others, however, "the whole thing

burst into flame" when the Depression forced him to dropout of school

and hunger marches, bonus marches, and unemployed council protests

acted on his emerging social conscience. Soon he was moving toward the

Party and engaging in union organizing.

Samuels, a gruff, self-deprecating man who often refers to his "big

mouth," rose to leadership within a small craft union and served on

the city CIO council. His CIO union was dominated by a Popular Front

coalition of the Party and a progressive Catholic group. The union

president, a leader of the latter, was incompetent; on several

occasions Samuels had to bail him out of collective-bargaining

disasters. Finally the Catholic faction and the Party faction sought

to replace the president with Samuels. The national Party leadership,

however, afraid of upsetting the delicate coalition, said no. Samuels

recalls that he "didn't even question" the decision, but he was

frustrated and soon left the union to become an organizer for a

larger, industrial union.

Samuels agrees with Milt Goldberg that it was relatively easy to be a

good organizer in that period. Labor was in an upswing, workers were

clamoring to be organized, NLRB cards were easy to accumulate. In

heavy industry, Samuels stresses, the key was to seek out the pockets

of old radical workers—not colonizers, he emphasizes—who had broken

down the old ethnic barriers. Many such organizers were members of the

IWO foreign-language federations. Next, one needed the "pie-cards,"

the full-time organizers supplied by the CIO itself, many of whom were

veteran radicals. Along with and sometimes among the pie-cards were

the younger Communists going into the shops, supported by a growing

and confident Party organization. A "highly developed structure,"

Samuels recalls, was essential to organizing success. One had to

develop shop committees and day-to-day contacts in each department.

The sense of strength provided by the union itself and, crucially, by

its CIO sponsor, allowed workers to imagine that the employers could

be successfully challenged. In the automobile, steel, rubber, mining,

and electrical equipment industries, workers facedmammoth corporations

willing to use any means necessary to throw back the unionist surge.

The New Deal, by encouraging a more neutral judiciary and law

enforcement role, made it easier for the coordinated CIO drives to

gain concessions from corporate heads. Samuels suggests that the

workers, some of whom had backed decades of unsuccessful rank-and-file

efforts, needed the sense that they were a part of a powerful

coalition. L. Lewis appealed to this sense when he proclaimed,

"The President want you to join a union." Such a coalition advanced

unionization at the same time that it necessitated concessions and

strictures that limited the leverage of the newly legitimized

unions.^16

Samuels argues that it was imperative for organizers to have knowledge

of their industries. He deliberately worked in a craft shop to learn

the trade and later carefully studied one heavy industry before going

out to organize its workers. He was not typical. Hodee Edwards, a

thirties organizer, stresses "our consistent failure to investigate

the neighborhoods and factories where we tried to work, thus applying

a generalized, sectarian plan usually incomprehensible to those we

wanted to reach."^17

And Sam Katz suggests that the Party did not always recognize the

tension between the leadership and the activist/organizer over the

pace and nature of organizing. The functionaries often pushed for the

most advanced positions, including the "resolutions bit," whereas the

organizers focused on the issues that confronted their constituents.

Conflict was inevitable between broad policy and local needs and

variations, and between policy planners and functionaries and field

organizers and the rank and file. It is clear that the Communist Party

suffered chronically from top-heavy decision making, which often left

local organizers and members with policy directives that made little

sense in local circumstances.

In addition to organizational strength and preparation, Samuels feels

that leadership ability and, at times, personal courage must be

demonstrated. On several occasions he had to take risks or lose the

confidence of his membership. In one local the workers affectionately

referred to him as "R.R.J.B.," Red Russian JewBastard. He tells of

organizing workers in a small Georgia company town. Fifteen hundred

were on strike, and the patriarchal owners were negotiating only under

pressure from the NLRB. They were stalling, however, so Samuels called

on the work force to increase the pressure by massing outside the

building where the negotiations were taking place. The next day, in

the midst of bargaining, Samuels noticed the face of the company's

attorney turning an ash white as he glanced out the window. What he

saw were about three hundred workers marching toward the building

carrying a rope; lynching was on their agenda. Samuels went out and

calmed them down, "modified" their demands, and then wrapped up

negotiations. His early organizing days also included maritime

struggles with gangster elements who were not beyond "bumping off"

militants. Samuels implies that the Left elements fought back,

sometimes resorting to their own brand of physical intimidation.^18

Peggy Dennis describes the Bolshevik ideal as "soldiers in a

revolutionary army at permanent war with a powerful class enemy." And

"in permanent war, doubts or questions are treason."^19

Yet as Joseph Starobin asks, "How could the Leninist equilibrium be

sustained in a country so different from Lenin's?"^20

In fact, it was sustained unevenly and at a price. In a society with a

tradition of civil liberties (albeit inconsistently applied and

occasionally suspended in moments of stress) and a remarkably

resilient political democracy, the Leninist model, hardened and

distorted by Stalinism, mixed uncomfortably with American

realities.^21

At its best the Leninist ideal encouraged the incredible levels of

hard work and perseverance that even critics of Communism grant to its

cadres; it also evoked such personal qualities as integrity, courage,

honesty, and militancy. Yet the ideal seemed to degenerate too easily

into a model of behavior appropriately labeled Stalinist. Communist

cadres accepted deceptive tactics and strategies that inevitably

backfired and undermined theirintegrity and reputations—for example,

the front groups that "flip-flopped" at Party command after years of

denying Party domination. The intolerance and viciousness with which

Communists often attacked adversaries, including liberals, socialists,

and their own heretics, remains inexcusable.^22

As organizers, Communist activists suffered from a tendency toward a

special kind of elitism that often made them incapable of working with

diverse groups sharing common goals. In some periods they turned this

streak of inhumanity against themselves, engaging in ugly campaigns of

smear and character assassination to eliminate "Titoists,"

"Browderites," "revisionists," "left-wing adventurists," or "white

chauvinists."

Moreover, the secrecy within which Communists often operated, while

sometimes justified by the danger of job loss or prosecution, served

to undermine the Party's moral legitimacy. An organizer's relationship

with his constituents depends on their belief in his integrity, and

this is especially true when the organizer is an outsider. Too often,

Communists undermined their own integrity by covering manipulative and

cynical acts with the quite plausible explanation that survival

required secrecy. The tendency of Communists to resort to First and

Fifth Amendment protection during the McCarthy period falls under

similar challenges. As Joseph Starobin asks:

Should left-wingers and Communists have gone to jail in large numbers?

Might they have been better off/politically/, in terms of

their/image/, to assert their affiliations, to proclaim them instead

of asserting their right to keep them private, to explain the issues

as they saw them, and to take the consequences?^23

Communist activists certainly did not lack courage or commitment to a

protracted struggle. Many risked prison, and some served prison

sentences; perhaps as many as one-third of the cadres painfully

accepted assignments to go underground in the early fifties. Their

Leninism had to navigate contradictory currents of Stalinism and

Americanization, militancy and opportunism.

Local Communist activists often lived a somewhat schizophrenic life,

alternately internationalist and indigenous, Bolshevik and

"progressive," admiring the Leninist model of cadre and yet falling

into more settled, familial patterns of activism. There was a clear if

often ignored sexual division of labor: men were more likely to be the

cadres, women performed auxiliary clerical functions and unnoticed but

essential neighborhood organizing.

The Party was also divided between theorists and intellectuals on the

one hand and field workers and activists on the other. As one field

worker proclaimed, "I couldn't be spending hours on ideological

conflicts; I'm an activist, not an intellectual." Many agree that the

bulk of an organizer's time went into local actions and much less went

into discussions and considerations of important theoretical or

programmatic matters.^24

Only a small proportion received the type of ideological and

intellectual training suggested by the Leninist ideal, an ideal that

formally sought the obliteration of the distinctions between thought

and action, intellectual and activist.

In fact, Party intellectuals faced chronic and ingrained suspicion,

even contempt, from Party leaders. Abe Shapiro sardonically charges

that the function of Party intellectuals was "to sell the/Daily

Worker/at the waterfront." He remembers checking on a new Party

document on the economy: "I actually read the document. I wanted to

know what the Hell it was." He found it infantile and far below what

well-trained but never used Party intellectuals and social scientists

could have produced. The Party rarely, except for showcase purposes,

relied on its trained intellectual or academic members; instead, it

called on Party functionaries, often of very narrow training, to write

about complex sociological, economic, and scientific matters. Theory

suffered as a result, and the Party, particularly after 1939, included

very few intellectuals.

Until the mid-fifties crisis, the Party, strangled by Stalinist dogma

and intolerance, was closed to intellectual discourse. Abe Shapiro

finally left the Party because his intellectual training hadgiven him

a commitment to intellectual honesty that he could not shake. Among

organizers, Party arrogance cut off messages from the grass roots.

Orders from what one veteran calls "the Cave of Winds"—Party

headquarters in New York—often contradicted practical organizing

experience.

The Party also suffered from insularity. Mark Greenly brought

interested fellow workers to a Party-dominated union meeting. They

were curious and "antiboss" but quite unsophisticated and not at all

ready to make any commitments. Unfortunately, the Party organizer

immediately started to discuss class struggle and a variety of

abstract political matters. The workers were quickly alienated and

frightened away, never to return. Ethel Paine recalls such

"inappropriate behavior" as the sectarian conversations Party people

would carry on in the presence of non-Communist acquaintances and

neighbors. Although chronically secretive about membership, Communists

could be remarkably insensitive to their audience in revealing ways. A

successful organizer learned when and how to introduce more

controversial ideas to nonmembers. Training, including the Party

schools, helped to some extent, but most Communists agree with the

veteran organizer who feels that such learning has to be done on the

job, by trial and error. Many Communists, like Sam Katz and

Caldwell, tell painful if sometimes hilarious tales of their own and

others' ineptitude as beginning organizers. Some discovered that they

simply were not suited for the job and would never develop the

personal qualities that make for a competent organizer. Several

veterans insist that organizers are born, not made. Yet relatively

introverted and socially awkward young people, inspired by the

idealism and the comradeship of the Communist movement, did transform

themselves into effective organizers. Vivian Gornick points out that

such transformations did not always survive the collapse of

association with the Party.^25

I did not, however, discover total or near total personality changes

caused either by joining or abandoning the Party.

Although most of the literature about radical organizers deals with

men, it is increasingly apparent that some of the mostsignificant and

consistently ignored organizing within the Communist Party involved

women. The ten women interviewed performed a rich variety of Party

tasks, but perhaps the most important were those not officially

designated, like the informal neighborhood activities organized by

Edith Samuels, described inChapter Five

.

Sarah Levy was also involved in such efforts. Sarah and her two

children joined her colonizer husband, Moe, in leaving the comfortable

Party concentration in the Strawberry Mansion section to live in a

nearby industrial town. She refers to the next three and a half years

as "not the easiest times and, yet to me, personally, one of the best

growing experiences—and I have never regretted it." (Moe's wry

rejoinder was "She didn't have to work the blast furnaces.")

There were only three Party families in the town, quite a difference

from the thirty or forty Party friends they left behind in Strawberry

Mansion. While Moe worked the furnaces and tried to develop contacts

with plant workers, Sarah joined a folk dance group at the local "Y,"

where she got to know Greek, Yugoslav, Italian, and other immigrant

women. Moe, limited in the plant to a small Party circle of colonizers

and sympathizers, was able to socialize with the husbands of Sarah's

folk dancing partners.

Colonizers often ended up working with a local Party apparatus while

their wives, working through neighborhood networks, reached into the

community through its women, older people, and children. Asie

Repice casually but proudly concluded about her work with a community

center during the war years; "I am an organizer, so I organized a

nursery." Her husband was in the service. Moving around to stay close

to his base, she put her organizing abilities and political values to

work. Such efforts remain an unwritten chapter in the history of

radical organizing.^26

*/functionaries/*

Few district functionaries other than Sam Darcy achieved any national

stature or had much leverage outside the district. Dave Davis, the

business manager of UE Local 155 and an importantPhiladelphia-area

labor leader, was often elected to the Party's national committee but

never entered the inner decision-making group. Other district

leaders—like Pat Toohey, Phil Bart, Phil Frankfeld, and Ed Strong—were

D.O.s sent into the district and then moved out again to other

assignments.

Most district functionaries played dominant roles within the district

committee and ran such important Party operations as the local

Progressive Party and the Civil Rights Congress. They drew meager

salaries, which were sometimes supplemented by Party-related

employment. The Party network, at least during the late thirties and

forties, could place members in some union jobs.^27

Possibly several dozen members depended on the Party for their

livelihood in this way.

*/nonmembers/*

One often encounters Communists who, for very specific reasons, were

not formal Party members. One former Progressive Party leader never

joined the Party but worked closely with district Communist leaders to

map strategy and coordinate activity. Some union leaders stayed out of

the Party to deny employers the red-baiting weapon, and a number

dropped out after the Taft-Hartley Act made a union officer liable to

prosecution for perjury if he lied about current Party membership.^28

*/professionals/*

Some professionals who joined the Party operated at a rank-and-file

level, belonging to a professional branch or club, attending meetings,

and fulfilling subscription quotas. Several recall being highly

impressed with the other professionals they met at Party functions.

But such members—often doctors, dentists, and architects—were on the

margins of Party life.

Many professionals, especially lawyers associated with Party causes,

found membership problematic and chose not to formalize their

relationships with the Party, though they might be members of a

professional club. "I fought against loose tongues," one states."I

never asked a soul whether they were Communists or not." Several

left-wing attorneys stress that they did not want to be in a position

to betray anyone or risk a perjury charge if questioned about their

own affiliations and associations. The law in America is a

conservative profession, and several Left lawyers paid a high price

for their efforts.^29

Another consideration was that the Party sometimes pressured lawyers

to use a particular legal strategy in Party-related cases, and such

pressure was more effectively applied to members.^30

One attorney notes that the Party itself seemed ambivalent about

requiring formal membership. A few district leaders pressured him to

join, while others understood that it was not particularly useful or

necessary.

Some lawyers, whether members or not, found their services very much

in demand. They were needed in labor negotiations, electoral

activities, and civil rights and civil liberties cases. In the late

forties and early fifties, Party-affiliated lawyers found it less easy

than it had been to earn a living through Party-based clients, such as

left-wing unions. Instead they were called upon to deal with the

titanic task of defending Party members indicted under the Smith Act

and other pieces of repressive legislation. Thanks to this demand, as

one attorney suggests, they received special treatment from the

district leadership. They mixed with labor leaders, politicians,

judges, and, at times, the national Party leadership. Several had more

contact with the non-Communist local authorities than district

functionaries had. One left-wing attorney recalls that he had the

luxury of criticizing Party policies and decisions, within limits,

because "I was needed, I was special, a lawyer."

More significant than membership was the degree of autonomy a member

had, and this was based on his importance to the Party or his

institutional leverage. A professional could get away with criticism

of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that would not be tolerated from

rank-and-filers or most cadres. A union leader could ignore Party

instructions, aware that his own organization was his power base. A

former Communist, George Charney, criticizes in his memoirsthe

"left-wing aristocracy of labor that rarely mingled with the herd of

party members or the middle functionaries."^31

Such trade-unions "influentials" often had contempt for functionaries

and would go over their heads to top leadership.

Those who entered the Party, at whatever level, in whatever role,

operated within a well-defined organization and lived within a

somewhat insular and often nurturing subculture that provided them

with formal and informal relationships. These relationships eased the

often lonely organizing work. One veteran unashamedly calls his fellow

Communist organizers "the most dedicated, most selfless people in the

struggle." Many would share Jessica Mitford's feelings:

I had regarded joining the Party as one of the most important

decisions of my adult life. I loved and admired the people in it, and

was more than willing to accept the leadership of those far more

experienced than I. Furthermore, the principle of democratic

centralism seemed to me essential to the functioning of a

revolutionary organization in a hostile world.^32

Any tendency to romanticize such activists must be tempered by an

awareness of their mistakes, limitations, and weaknesses, and it is

true that many non-Communists made similar commitments to organizing

the oppressed and the weak. They too merit consideration. These

Philadelphia veterans of the Communist Party are very human actors who

worked on a particular historical stage. Some conclude that their

years of effort never really brought any of their factory and shop

constituents into the movement. Like Sol Davis, they admit that they

were utter failures in that "cultural, political, and philosophical

wasteland" of blue-collar America. Others share the pride, perhaps the

arrogance, of one of Vivian Gornick's subjects:

We're everywhere, everywhere. We/saved/this fucking country. We went

to Spain, and because we did America understood fascism. We made

Vietnam come to an end, we're in there inWatergate. We built the CIO,

we got Roosevelt elected, we started black civil rights, we forced

this shitty country into every piece of action and legislation it has

ever taken. We did the dirty work and the Labor and Capital

establishments got the rewards. The Party helped make democracy

work.^33

The road from Spain to Watergate is a long one. Communists, euphoric

at their prospects in the heyday of CIO sit-downs and Popular Front

triumphs, later needed remarkable inner resources to sustain political

activity. They sensed the first tremors from the purge trials,

received a severe jolt from the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of

1939, and in the postwar years faced first political repression and

then, more painfully, internal disintegration and demoralization.

NEXT CHAPTER

seven: problems and crises, 1939–1956


the founder of Black Lives Matter once described herself as a trained

, like Obama, but I could only find this:

https://nypost.com/2020/06/25/blm-co-founder-describes-herself-as-trained-marxist/

On 10/17/22 10:32 wrote:

Since many believe Obama is running the Marxist Biden administration

We might want to look at a history of comnunist organizing,

euphemistically called a community organizing

https://temple.manifoldapp.org/read/philadelphia-communists-1936-1956/section/c5cbd6e3-ed24-4bcb-97b0-da424fc58416

*/the communist as organizer/*

In the period between the Great Crash and the McCarthy era the CPUSA

was the most effective organizing agency within the American

experience.^1

In this most politically stable of societies, radicals have usually

battered their heads against the stone wall of affluence, rising

expectations, and Democratic Party loyalty. Within the narrow space of

agitation allowed by the political order, Communist Party activists

built a small but influential organization devoted to organizing

constituencies for social change. According to even the most

unsympathetic accounts, Communist activists played important roles in

organizing the unemployed, evicted tenants, minorities, and workers in

a wide variety of fields. They were central in the emergence of the

CIO and thus in the organizing of workers in heavy industry and mass

production; they spearheaded the defense of the right of black people

to equality before the law and social and economic opportunity; and

they participated in virtually all of the nationalefforts to establish

humane social services and eliminate hunger, disease, and neglect from

our communities.^2

Many analysts question the motives of Communist Party activists, and

there certainly is controversy about the extent of their organizing

successes. Nevertheless, Communist organizing merits serious and

objective consideration. For a period of approximately thirty years,

Communist Party activists and organizers sought out constituents in

the mines, plants, and neighborhoods of the United States. Other

left-wing groups, such as the Socialist Party, the Trotskyist

Socialist Workers Party, and A. J. Muste's Workers Party, also deserve

study, but the CPUSA offers students the best opportunity to examine

the dynamics of organizing sponsored and directed by a radical

political group.^3

The organizers under consideration came to political maturity during

the 1930s, mostly in an era associated with the Popular Front, and

remained within the Party until at least the mid-Fifties. Indeed, many

remained active organizers and participants after leaving the

organizational framework of the Communist Party. In the thirties and

forties, they modified their Bolshevik rhetoric and participated in

antifascist alliances, worked for modest short-term successes within

the fledgling CIO, and provided support and manpower for a diverse

group of radical and progressive political movements and leaders,

including Democrats, Farmer-Laborites, the American Labor Party in New

York, and Communist Party councilmen in New York City, all under an

essentially New Deal banner.^4

Organizers operating in the greater Philadelphia district had

important trade-union successes and played a key role in organizing

unemployed councils, electoral efforts, tenant rights, and peace,

professional lobbying, civil liberties, ethnically based, and

neighborhood groups. For a period of approximately ten years, from

1936 to perhaps 1947, the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and

Delaware, District Three, played an important if modest role in the

political life of the area, generating ideas, programs, and visions

that later became the commonplaces of social policy.

The Party offered its membership several roles. One could remain at

the rank-and-file level, become a cadre, or rise to functionary. One

could engage in mass work within one of the Party fronts or a

non-Party organization (e.g., the YMCA) or one could become a

"colonizer," engaging in industrial organizing at the beck and call of

the Party. In addition, one could work within the professional

section, providing the Party with such services as legal counsel.^5

*/rank and file/*

At the lowest level of Party membership were the rank and file, the

proverbial "Jimmy Higginses" who worked within Party clubs and

branches, paid their dues, went to a variety of meetings, and joined

the mass organizations and fronts, often focusing on a specific issue

like Spain, civil rights, or Scottsboro. Such rank-and-filers were at

the heart of everyday activities and what Gornick calls "grinding

ordinariness."^6

There was an extraordinary turnover among such members, who often

became weary of meetings,/Daily Worker/solicitations, and office chores.

Many rank-and-filers began their activism while in college or

sometimes high school. The Philadelphia high school movement was quite

sizable, including ASU and YCL chapters in at least eight schools.

High school activists ranged throughout the city, meeting radical

peers, socializing, and developing their own circle of comrades. For

those who entered college either already active or about to be

radicalized, there was an almost dizzying flow of activities,

including demonstrations, marches, sit-downs, leaflettings,

fundraisers, dances, parties, socials, lectures, speeches—and

meetings. Always, there were meetings, one for every night of the

week, often more.^7

Enthusiastic, recently converted Communists, like their spiritual

children in the 1960s, had unbounded energy for political work. Most

speak of being aroused and inspired by their sense of the significance

of their efforts, the quality of their comrades, and the grandeur and

power of their movement. Abe Shapiro recalls being engrossed at one

time in the following activities: formal YCL meetings, ASU leadership,

a universityantiwar council (of which he was director), Spanish civil

war relief efforts, a variety of antifascist activities, a student-run

bookstore cooperative, and support work for assorted civil liberties

and civil rights causes. Some activists found schoolwork boring under

the circumstances and devoted all of their time to politics. A few

became "colonizers." In most cases, however, Communist students

completed their degree work, and if they dropped out of school, it was

often for financial reasons. For most, the excitement of campus

politics held their attention and their interest.

Some found Party youth work a path toward leadership, becoming

citywide or national ASU or YCL leaders. Others on leaving campus

became YCL branch or section organizers in different parts of the

district.

Many who did not attend college did neighborhood work with the YCL,

often focusing their mass organizational efforts through the American

League for Peace and Democracy. To many youthful rank-and-filers, "the

YCL became . . . Marxist-Leninist theory all mixed up with baseball,

screwing, dancing, selling the/Daily Worker/, bullshitting, and living

the American-Jewish street life."^8

Certainly the first flush of radicalism, the emotional high of

purposeful activity, the sense of accomplishment and of sacrifice for

the good of humanity, the work with fine and noble comrades, the love

affairs with those sharing a common vision, the expectation that the

future was indeed theirs, created a honeymoon effect for most young

Communists.

For some, the fad of radicalism passed upon graduation or thereabouts.

Others simply maintained a regular but distant "fellow-traveling" role

as they entered the work world. And many were disillusioned by the

Party's dogmatism or the great purge trials, the attacks on Trotsky,

or the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Others, including those

interviewed, remained in the Party. The shortest stay was six years,

and most remained loyal for twenty years or more. For all of those who

stayed, the Party and its small subculture became their lives.

Those working at the branch, club, and section levels were rarely on

the Party payroll and had to find work to supportthemselves. For

single people problems were few and life could be lived at a

double-time pace, working hard all day and then organizing and holding

meetings every night.

Some young Communists drifted for a time after school, doing Party

work but not settling into anything. Ben Green lived in Strawberry

Mansion, a lower-middle- and working-class Jewish neighborhood filled

with Party people at the time. He did some work with the American

League Against War and Fascism, spoke on street corners occasionally,

went to three to four meetings a week, and helped to start a union

local of public employees at his Works Progress Administration (WPA)

office. He remembers that the Party "made it a big thing" when he

shifted from the YCL to adult membership, but he was still looking at

his future with uncertainty.

Upon completing high school, George Paine felt that "sports were gone"

from his life except for an occasional neighborhood basketball game.

He kept in touch but saw less of old non-Party buddies and did

standard political work, "hustling the paper," going to meetings,

demonstrating. Finally he decided to go to college, suspending but not

ending his Party ties.

One rank-and-filer was a skilled craftsman, "glad of the class I was

born into." He belonged to a conservative craft union and limited his

political work to mass work at the local YMCA. He never really got

involved with a club or branch group but paid his dues, subscribed to

the paper, and worked with comrades to move the "Y" in a more

"progressive" direction. He was quite open about his views, which

would eventually get him into trouble at his job: "I felt that since

to me everything was so clear, they'd hug me."

Tim Palen, a farmer and skilled craftsman who lived in a rural suburb

of Philadelphia, worked with the Farmers Union. A Party

rank-and-filer, he helped farmers get low-interest loans through the

union and sympathetic banks. Palen never involved himself with Party

affairs in the city, and the highest office he held was dues secretary

of his section.

Since the Communist Party did not formally label members according to

their rank, it is not always clear who was a rank-and-filer and who

was considered cadre. One former district leader defines cadres as the

people in training for leadership, like officers in an army. The rank

and file are, therefore, foot soldiers, less involved and more a part

of their own neighborhood or plant, more likely to hold conventional

jobs, and more subject to pressures from neighbors, family, and

changing circumstances. Annie Kriegel, who analyzes the French

Communist Party as a set of concentric circles, places fellow

travelers who vote for the Party and read the Sunday Party press on

the "outer circle" and "ordinary party members" in the "first

circle."^9

Many observers describe such rank-and-filers as less "Bolshevik"—that

is, more likely to break Party discipline in everyday activity and

closer to the behavior and sensibilities of their non-Party peers.

Harvey Klehr puts it, "Many party members received no training of any

kind, attendance at party meetings was often spotty, and members

frequently ignored or failed to carry out assigned tasks."^10

Almond presents esoteric and exoteric models to distinguish

rank-and-filer from cadre, suggesting that the Party daily press

directed itself to the relatively idealistic and naive external

members, while the Comintern, Cominform, and internal Party journals

spoke to insiders and sophisticated activists.^11

*/cadre/*

The cadre has a "personal commitment." He or she is a "true

Bolshevik," internally Communized, with an almost priestly function

and sense of specialness. The cadre is a "professional revolutionary"

along Leninist lines.^12

Philip Selznick adds that cadres are "deployable personnel," available

to the Party at all times.^13

Some observers use "cadre" interchangeably with "functionary," while

others distinguish them. I interpret "functionary" as a more

administrative and executive role, usually carrying more authority and

generally associated with top district and national leadership.^14

Cadres were field workers, organizers, sometimes on the payroll but

often holding a non-Party job. Some more mobile cadres lefttheir own

neighborhoods, but most worked at least within their home districts.

(Functionaries, on the other hand, could be homegrown and

district-bound or at the service of the national, even international,

office.)

Many studies exaggerate the distinction between inner core and outer

rings because of their dependence on the abstractions of Party tracts.

Almond, for example, claims that the "true Communist" was beyond any

commitment to the Popular Front since he was presumably fully

Bolshevized and aware of the duplicity and tactical nature of

moderated rhetoric. Perhaps this is true of the national leadership,

who had associations with Moscow, training at the Lenin School, and

Comintern experience. At the district level, however, the patterns are

not as clear and seem to be more sensitive to generational, class, and

ethnic variables.^15

Among informants, the word "cadre" connoted "hard-working," "brave,"

"dogged," and "honorable"—someone who followed a Leninist model of

behavior; "functionary," on the other hand, was often used negatively

to imply that someone was "bureaucratic," "aloof," "abstract," and

"remote from struggle"—in brief, the Stalinist/apparatchik/. Neither

necessarily belonged to an inner core.

Fred Garst tells of the "process of indoctrination" he underwent as he

entered into Party life, beginning with "the regularity of systematic

participation"—dues, meetings, selling Party literature. He says that

the number of meetings began slowly to escalate to three, sometimes

five a week: section and subsection meetings, executive meetings,

front meetings. Next, Garst was asked to lead a discussion, then to

take responsibility for organizing the distribution of literature. He

started taking classes at a local Workers School in Marxist theory and

labor history. His commitment grew, his experience deepened, and he

soon became a section leader.

Some Philadelphia Communists moved from rank-and-file to cadre roles

during important political campaigns like theProgressive Party efforts

of 1947–1948. One woman had been serving in a minor capacity—"not

anything earth-shattering"—but was swept up by what Wallace referred

to as "Gideon's Army." She became a full-time Progressive Party

organizer at a district level, her "first real organizing"; from that

point on, she was fully involved in Party work at a variety of levels.

Some cadres emphasized front and mass work, serving as leaders of IWO

ethnic groups, youth groups, and defense groups. Such cadres were

particularly likely to operate clandestinely, although many

communicated their affilitation all but formally to constituents.

Cadres can be distinguished by their level of operation (club, branch,

section, or district), by their funding (on the payroll or holding a

regular job), by their relative mobility and willingness to do

political work outside their own milieu, and, finally, by the type of

organizing they did (mass or front work, electoral party work,

industrial organizing). The most prestigious cadres were those who did

full-time industrial organizing at the will of the Party leadership.

Such organizers, whether of working-class origins or not and whether

indigenous or colonizers, were the heart of Party operations, seeking

to develop a proletarian constituency and a trade-union base.

/ny tisa/

ny Tisa's history shows what an experienced organizer could

accomplish. Tisa, a second-generation son of illiterate, working-class

peasants, went to work at the Campbell's Soup plant in his own South

Camden "Little Italy" after completing high school in the early 1930s.

While working summers at the plant, he had been stimulated by

street-corner radical speakers and had joined the Socialist Party,

which had a presence at Campbell's Soup. The Socialists sent him to

Brookwood Labor College, where he met young Communists who impressed

him with their earnestness and apparent lack of factionalism, a

problem he encountered among the Socialists. He returned to help

organize the plant, starting with a small group of about a half-dozen

Italian workers, none of themCommunists, whom he molded through a

discussion group. His group received a federal charter from the

American Federation of Labor and began to develop an underground,

dues-paying membership.

Tisa tells of frustrating experiences within the conservative AFL. At

the 1939 convention in Tampa, for example, he found himself accidently

strolling into a local walk-out of Del Monte workers, just as the

police were arresting the leader. He spoke to thery workers and

was himself threatened with arrest. The workers exclaimed, "You got Bo

[the arrested leader] but you're not gonna get him," and made a ring

to escort Tisa to a streetcar. That evening, at his suggestion, there

was a union meeting, packed and excited. When Tisa tried to speak

about this remarkable experience at the AFL convention, he was refused

the floor. Finally he simply took over the podium and microphone.

Later that day, he met with other militants, including Communists, to

organize the ClO-affiliated Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union.

He took a detour, however, as events in Spain captured his energies

and idealism. Tisa served two years in Spain with the Abraham Lincoln

Brigade, gaining "a sense of internationalism that never escapes you."

On his return, he immediately set out to organize Campbell's Soup.

At the time Tisa began to organize it, Campbell's Soup employed about

5,500 full-time workers, with another 5,000 part-timers who came in

during the heavy season. At least half the workers were of Italian

descent; there were few blacks until the late 1940s. About half the

work force was female. There was a sexual division of labor based on

physical strength. Tisa's organizing group consisted of eleven or

twelve key workers, all leftists, mostly Italian. None were

"colonizers." All were indigenous workers who, under Tisa's

leadership, planned the unionization of Campbell's. Tisa recalls that

the group would often go crabbing and then return to his home to eat,

drink, and talk strategy. Tisa was the only member of the group on the

national union's payroll; he made a bare ten or fifteen dollars a week.

The organizers distributed themselves through the plant, reaching out

to obvious sympathizers and picking up useful information that they

would relay to Tisa, who could not enter the plant. He would take

names and visit workers in their homes, signing them up so that the

union could hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. He

would also cull information about working conditions from his

organizers and publish it in a union bulletin that they distributed

clandestinely, each carrying five to ten copies.

As their numbers increased, they became bolder and distributed the

much discussed bulletin openly. Campbell's Soup had Tisa arrested

once, but when he was released, many workers came to greet him. He

assured them that the law permitted them to organize a union. The

company tried many tactics to block his efforts: they started a

company union; they charged that he was a "Red" and had raped nuns and

killed priests in Spain. But Tisa lived in an Italian neighborhood

among plant workers and had a mother who had worked in the plant for

many years (cheering his speeches, often at the wrong times, he wryly

and lovingly notes); he could not be red-baited easily. He was an open

Communist; his neighbors would say, "ny's a Communist, but he's

all right." Despite the real barrier of the workers'traditional

Catholicism, he produced traditional trade-union benefits for members

and was popular enough locally, a neighbor, to remain in leadership

until the CIO purges of the late forties and early fifties finally

forced him out.

Tisa's experience highlights the importance of developing indigenous

personnel in organizing activity. His efforts were certainly bolstered

by support from the national union, by Communist Party training and

aid, and by the relative benevolence of the federal government as

expressed through the new NLRB. Yet the presence of local activists,

something the Communist Party sought but did not often achieve,

invariably made the task of organizing a plant or neighborhood that

much easier.

Other organizers performed similar roles without formally entering the

Party, preferring to remain independent although generally taking

positions consistent with Party policy.

/jack ryan/

Jack Ryan's old man was "a union man," later a foreman, a local

Democratic politician, and a bootlegger. As a teen-ager, and a high

school drop-out, Ryan ran poker and crap games in the neighborhood

with a group of friends, some of whom wound up in prison. He worked

sporadically as a roofer, during which time he was influenced by a

socialist "who couldn't read or write until he was twenty-three."

His father finally got him a job at a local plant, where he worked as

a crane operator in the early Depression years until he was laid off

in 1931. Over the next two years, he tried a small store and "managed

to hang on," selling water ice and running crap games. In 1933 he went

back to the plant just at the point when the local union was being

formed. Ryan recalls that he was "sworn in in an elevator with the

lights out in between the floors." Despite his emerging radical

politics, Ryan remained on the margins at first. "I deliberately

didn't get active," he says, indicating that life seemed too

unpredictable to take chances. In fact, he entered into a real-estate

business on the side, and it eventually provided him with the cushion

that allowed him to become more active within the plant.

Initially he ran for the general committee, backed by the other crane

operators because of his successful grievance work. Still cautious ("I

kept my mouth shut," he notes), Ryan went along with the conservative

local leadership while maintaining contact with the plant militants,

several of whom were old Wobblies suspicious of any Communist Party

leadership. Ryan worked primarily through his own crane operators'

network within the plant. He played the trade-offs in union posts

among the plant's crafts to become local president, an unpaid post,

and finally business representative, the only salaried position within

the local. Ryanremained close to the Party but never joined. "I was

more radical than they were," he brags. He criticizes their twists and

turns and suggests that "in the end you can't trust any of them"

because of "the goddamn line." He adds that the/Daily Worker/was

"written for a bunch of morons." On the other hand, Ryan admits that

Party union members were often competent and successful organizers and

that he agreed with most of their Popular Front stances, particularly

their antifascism. On the Soviets, he says that he did not spend too

much time thinking about them, but adds, "I don't blame them for

having a treaty with the Germans."

Ryan is clearly concerned with the practical issues of trade unionism.

In describing one of his national officers, he exclaims, "A dedicated

Communist but a helluva guy." He praises L. Lewis's efforts at

industrial unionization: "him and the Commies put together the CIO;

they were the smartest crowd." So Jack Ryan worked with but kept some

distance from "the Commies": "they were a little bit nutty." His union

was one of those expelled from the CIO in the late forties, and he

remains bitter about the Party's role in the union's decline. He

remained active, holding union office on and off until his retirement.

Ryan proudly concludes that he was placed on Social Security while on

strike for the last time in the early seventies.

ny Tisa and Jack Ryan were working-class organizers, with roots in

their ethnic communities, able to establish a rapport with their peers

and, at the same time, develop more sophisticated skills within a

broader and more ideological movement in or around the Communist

Party. Their failures were mostly exogenous, the results of

Taft-Hartley oaths, CIO purges, and McCarthyism in general.

Others operated in less favorable terrain, without the decided

advantages of an indigenous, working-class background. The most

characteristic Party labor organizer was a young, educated,

second-generation Jewish-American sent to "dig roots into the

working-class." The efforts of such organizers were prodigious; their

accomplishments, however, were more problematic.

/al schwartz/

Al Schwartz's father was a 1905er, a Party organizer in the garment

industry who had to open a small shop after he was blacklisted. Al, a

classic "red-diaper baby," went through all of the Party developmental

steps, from Young Pioneers through YCL to full Party involvement. Most

of all he wanted to be a radical journalist. For a few years he was

able to work on the Pennsylvania supplement to the/Worker/, but when

it folded, his journalism career seemed over. Over the next half-dozen

years, Schwartz, now in his late twenties, went into the shops as a

"colonizer." He remembers the sense of adventure and mission he felt

working at a few of the larger heavy industrial plants in the area.

Yet he also speaks of his sense of loss and defeat in having to

aban hopes of writing. Schwartz's response to colonizing was

painfully ambivalent: a college graduate and a Jew, born and bred

within the Yiddish-Left subculture, he both relished the contact with

blue-collar workers and remained distant from them. They were not like

him, he stresses; they were mired in back-breaking labor, poor

educations, and plebian forms of leisure. For a time he enjoyed the

camaraderie of the local taverns, but ultimately he was an outsider, a

Jewish family man and a struggling intellectual. Schwartz most fondly

recalls the hardness and fitness of his body, the feeling that he was

young and strong and physically a worker. But the successes were few,

and later the McCarthy period made such Party efforts even more

marginal. Schwartz found himself a family man in his mid-thirties

without a career or a profession; frustrated and drifting out of Party

life without drama or flourish, he moved to reorganize his life. His

political values held, but his colonizing days were over.

/sol davis/

Sol Davis grew up in a poor, working-class, immigrant household. He

was a bright young boy, and like many other upwardly aspiring Jewish

males, he flourished at the elite Central High School andbegan moving

toward a professional career. At this point, in the early years of the

Depression, he was swept off his feet, as he puts it, by the Communist

Party. After completing his schooling, he worked lackadaisically at

his profession while seeking an opportunity to go into the shops as a

Communist Party organizer; he was "determined to be shop worker."

His first attempts allowed him to learn something about machinery,

although in each instance he was fired for his inexperience and

incompetence. Finally he caught on. "I was in my element," he asserts,

describing the war years in heavy industry. For Davis, the good

organizer had to have a commitment to "the principles of Communism,"

"a talent for leadership," and a willingness to listen. A confident

speaker, whose words are clipped and terse, he worked twenty-nine

years in the shops, twenty-six of them at one plant. Located within

the city, the plant was staffed mostly by Catholic workers (Polish or

Irish), initially few blacks, and even fewer Jews.

Davis's recollections are filled with bitter refrains about

red-baiting and "turn-coat ex-CPers," sell-outs and "social

democrats." He is proud of his successes, which include chairing the

grievance committee and serving as shop steward during most of his

union years. Davis presents his life as devoted to organizing in the

shops; he never got involved in his neighborhood and tended to leave

Party electoral work to others. A hard-line orthodox Communist still,

Davis argues that those who abandoned the Party were "petty-bourgeois

with petty-bourgeois ideas," whereas he "was nursed out of the

trade-union movement." In the fifties, he admits, "life became

unpleasant," both in his largely Jewish lower-middle-class

neighborhood and in the shop, where "a certain resistance developed to

my activity" among people he calls anti-Communist socialists.

Davis believes that most American workers have been bought off in

"discrete and discernible fashion" by imperialist profits, manipulated

by the mass media, and blinded by nationalism, religion, and racism.

After spending almost thirty years in theindustrial heartland, Davis

remains "dedicated to an idea," an "unquestioned belief" in communism.

Yet when asked about his ability to convert workers to class

consciousness, a saddened Sol Davis replies, "Never—the shop was a

desert for me." He did not convert a single worker and was "in that

respect an utter failure." The shops, to the stoical Davis, were "a

cultural, political, and philosophical wasteland despite having made

so many friends." Sol Davis has kept the faith since he was "baptized"

in the movement; his singular lack of organizing success rests, in his

mind, on factors beyond his control—repression, cowardice,

self-interest. He is a confident man.

/ caldwell/

Other colonizers had more mixed results. Caldwell, a college

graduate with a middle-class WASP heritage, recalls that in his

initial colonizing effort, "I wasn't very smart and made a lot of

stupid mistakes—talked to people, became known as a troublemaker." He

was fired. Fortunately for Caldwell, his firing made him a "celebrated

case," and the predominantly Irish and Italian Catholic workers, and

even the conservative union officials, rallied to his support.

Caldwell says that whereas other Party organizers had their best

contact in their own departments, he touched bases throughout the

plant and often socialized at the local bar to maintain and develop

relationships. "A fair number knew I was a Communist," he says. "I

never denied it." But most did not. In most plants to admit membership

in the Party meant probable firing and certain harassment. For

organizers like Caldwell, discretion was the rule.

His efforts paid off against the union's local establishment. The

national, a left-wing union, sent in an organizer to help fashion a

local coalition to defeat the established group, and Caldwell worked

with him as elections chairman. The progressive slate was successful.

Caldwell, a leader of a left-wing veterans' group, participated in the

1946 strike surge. When mounted police chased people ontoporches in

Southwest Philadelphia to break up injunction-defying demonstrations,

the local CIO was able to bring out 25,000 workers to protest against

police brutality in front of City Hall. But such Popular Front-style

unified efforts were shattered by the developing Cold War consensus,

which began to drive radicals, particularly Party members, out of the

unions.

Caldwell shifted jobs in this period, finally taking a full-time

organizing job in a nearby industrial town. The plant had some IWO

members and a few Party members, but no organization. Caldwell, who

observes that "it really became difficult after the Korean War"

started, found some success in putting out a small paper and handing

it out at the main gates. He worked to develop contacts mainly by

distributing the Party paper, first for free, then by subscription.

Caldwell remembers proudly that he won a district drive with eighty

subscriptions in his area. Gains were modest: a Hungarian sympathizer

sent him two black shop stewards; then a few Irish Catholics made

contact. Caldwell recalls going into Philadelphia to see prize fights

with the latter workers, mixing pleasure with discussions of possible

articles about their area for the Party press.

But the times wrecked any chance Caldwell had of developing a Party

group. The FBI scared off possible sympathizers; he was arrested for

circulating antiwar petitions, and the venture finally ended in the

heyday of the McCarthy period when Caldwell was sent to join the

Party's underground.

Caldwell and Al Schwartz experienced the ebb of the progressive union

movement in the late forties and early fifties. Most Party labor

organizers and colonizers, however, joined the fray during the

extraordinary upsurge of the late thirties that established industrial

unionism through the CIO.

/milt goldberg/

Milt Goldberg, despite winning a Mayor's Scholarship, was unable to

continue his education after graduating from Central High School.

Instead, he scratched to make a living at odd jobs, gradually becoming

interested in radical politics. While he wasworking a pre-Christmas

job at Sears, the department store warehousemen went out on strike.

Clerks refused to cross the picket lines. Goldberg recalls that the

increasingly anxious owners persuaded the clerks to return to work

with promises of improved conditions and wage increases that were

never fulfilled; meanwhile, the warehousemen settled. In the

aftermath, the strike leaders were all fired. Goldberg says that many

of them were Communists and that he began to notice how often that was

the case: "I respected the Party people; they were able, talented people."

Goldberg became an organizer for a white-collar union dominated by

mobsters who made deals with management at the expense of the

membership. He describes his early efforts as "naive, inexperienced."

Goldberg played a key role in leading his membership out of the

corrupt union into a new CIO local, whose Philadelphia office staff

was dominated by Party organizers. In those days, the late thirties,

the era of sit-downs and a crescendo of collective bargaining

agreements, organizing was remarkably fluid. Goldberg says that

charters were granted easily and with little need for substantiation

or the apparatus of negotiation soon to appear under the NLRB. In

those days, he asserts with some nostalgia, one could go in and

organize a place in one or two days, present demands to the employer,

and make a deal. Such rapid victories were, of course, exceptions;

Goldberg also recalls the often brutal resistance of management,

particularly in heavy industry.

After serving in the war, Goldberg returned to his union efforts,

despite family advice that he try something more prestigious and

lucrative. The union was his life, so he stayed. He never formally

rejoined the Party, although he remained in close contact. The

Taft-Harley anti-Communist oath soon reinforced this decision.

Nevertheless, Goldberg and his small union were red-baited and

constantly under McCarthyite attack.

How did he survive? Goldberg argues that he "was very close to the

membership" and had solid support from his fellow leaders. He

emphasizes that the union provided real benefits and servicesto

membership and sustained their loyalty despite the attacks. In

addition, he notes that by this time the small union did not have a

Party group, only him. One of the more damaging policies of

Party-dominated unions was what Goldberg calls "the resolution

bit"—the passing of Party-sponsored resolutions on every issue from

Scottsboro to Spain. Too many left-wing unions manipulated such

resolutions without making any effort to educate the membership; all

that mattered was that local such-and-such of the so-and-so workers

sent a resolution attacking Franco's dictatorship in Spain. Goldberg

dropped such tactics in the postwar period, instead working with his

local's officers and servicing the practical needs of the membership.

By the mid-fifties, still a socialist, Milt Goldberg had become

estranged from the Communist Party.

As is true of most arts, the qualities that make for a successful

organizer are uncertain and descriptions are inevitably cliche-ridden.

As the experiences of ny Tisa and Jack Ryan indicate, having roots

in the work force being organized gives one a decided advantage. But

the Party could use only the troops it had available, and these were

for the most part educated, urban, Jewish Americans, most of whom had

no experience in the heavy industries that were their "colonies." Most

of them experienced frustration; one cadre estimates that 95 percent

of all Party colonizers failed. Too often colonizers were unable to

operate in a sea of Gentile proletarians. Fred Garst, stillry at

the Party for its insensitivity to context, charges that "the Left

didn't have any organizing skills." But some organizers, remarkably,

succeeded.

/ike samuels/

Ike Samuels still speaks with an accent that reveals the years he

spent in Eastern Europe before his mother, taking the remains of the

family silver, arrived in the United States. No red-diaper baby,

Samuels describes his youth as "street-wise" and his ambition as

making it in America. Like many others, however, "the whole thing

burst into flame" when the Depression forced him to dropout of school

and hunger marches, bonus marches, and unemployed council protests

acted on his emerging social conscience. Soon he was moving toward the

Party and engaging in union organizing.

Samuels, a gruff, self-deprecating man who often refers to his "big

mouth," rose to leadership within a small craft union and served on

the city CIO council. His CIO union was dominated by a Popular Front

coalition of the Party and a progressive Catholic group. The union

president, a leader of the latter, was incompetent; on several

occasions Samuels had to bail him out of collective-bargaining

disasters. Finally the Catholic faction and the Party faction sought

to replace the president with Samuels. The national Party leadership,

however, afraid of upsetting the delicate coalition, said no. Samuels

recalls that he "didn't even question" the decision, but he was

frustrated and soon left the union to become an organizer for a

larger, industrial union.

Samuels agrees with Milt Goldberg that it was relatively easy to be a

good organizer in that period. Labor was in an upswing, workers were

clamoring to be organized, NLRB cards were easy to accumulate. In

heavy industry, Samuels stresses, the key was to seek out the pockets

of old radical workers—not colonizers, he emphasizes—who had broken

down the old ethnic barriers. Many such organizers were members of the

IWO foreign-language federations. Next, one needed the "pie-cards,"

the full-time organizers supplied by the CIO itself, many of whom were

veteran radicals. Along with and sometimes among the pie-cards were

the younger Communists going into the shops, supported by a growing

and confident Party organization. A "highly developed structure,"

Samuels recalls, was essential to organizing success. One had to

develop shop committees and day-to-day contacts in each department.

The sense of strength provided by the union itself and, crucially, by

its CIO sponsor, allowed workers to imagine that the employers could

be successfully challenged. In the automobile, steel, rubber, mining,

and electrical equipment industries, workers facedmammoth corporations

willing to use any means necessary to throw back the unionist surge.

The New Deal, by encouraging a more neutral judiciary and law

enforcement role, made it easier for the coordinated CIO drives to

gain concessions from corporate heads. Samuels suggests that the

workers, some of whom had backed decades of unsuccessful rank-and-file

efforts, needed the sense that they were a part of a powerful

coalition. L. Lewis appealed to this sense when he proclaimed,

"The President want you to join a union." Such a coalition advanced

unionization at the same time that it necessitated concessions and

strictures that limited the leverage of the newly legitimized

unions.^16

Samuels argues that it was imperative for organizers to have knowledge

of their industries. He deliberately worked in a craft shop to learn

the trade and later carefully studied one heavy industry before going

out to organize its workers. He was not typical. Hodee Edwards, a

thirties organizer, stresses "our consistent failure to investigate

the neighborhoods and factories where we tried to work, thus applying

a generalized, sectarian plan usually incomprehensible to those we

wanted to reach."^17

And Sam Katz suggests that the Party did not always recognize the

tension between the leadership and the activist/organizer over the

pace and nature of organizing. The functionaries often pushed for the

most advanced positions, including the "resolutions bit," whereas the

organizers focused on the issues that confronted their constituents.

Conflict was inevitable between broad policy and local needs and

variations, and between policy planners and functionaries and field

organizers and the rank and file. It is clear that the Communist Party

suffered chronically from top-heavy decision making, which often left

local organizers and members with policy directives that made little

sense in local circumstances.

In addition to organizational strength and preparation, Samuels feels

that leadership ability and, at times, personal courage must be

demonstrated. On several occasions he had to take risks or lose the

confidence of his membership. In one local the workers affectionately

referred to him as "R.R.J.B.," Red Russian JewBastard. He tells of

organizing workers in a small Georgia company town. Fifteen hundred

were on strike, and the patriarchal owners were negotiating only under

pressure from the NLRB. They were stalling, however, so Samuels called

on the work force to increase the pressure by massing outside the

building where the negotiations were taking place. The next day, in

the midst of bargaining, Samuels noticed the face of the company's

attorney turning an ash white as he glanced out the window. What he

saw were about three hundred workers marching toward the building

carrying a rope; lynching was on their agenda. Samuels went out and

calmed them down, "modified" their demands, and then wrapped up

negotiations. His early organizing days also included maritime

struggles with gangster elements who were not beyond "bumping off"

militants. Samuels implies that the Left elements fought back,

sometimes resorting to their own brand of physical intimidation.^18

Peggy Dennis describes the Bolshevik ideal as "soldiers in a

revolutionary army at permanent war with a powerful class enemy." And

"in permanent war, doubts or questions are treason."^19

Yet as Joseph Starobin asks, "How could the Leninist equilibrium be

sustained in a country so different from Lenin's?"^20

In fact, it was sustained unevenly and at a price. In a society with a

tradition of civil liberties (albeit inconsistently applied and

occasionally suspended in moments of stress) and a remarkably

resilient political democracy, the Leninist model, hardened and

distorted by Stalinism, mixed uncomfortably with American

realities.^21

At its best the Leninist ideal encouraged the incredible levels of

hard work and perseverance that even critics of Communism grant to its

cadres; it also evoked such personal qualities as integrity, courage,

honesty, and militancy. Yet the ideal seemed to degenerate too easily

into a model of behavior appropriately labeled Stalinist. Communist

cadres accepted deceptive tactics and strategies that inevitably

backfired and undermined theirintegrity and reputations—for example,

the front groups that "flip-flopped" at Party command after years of

denying Party domination. The intolerance and viciousness with which

Communists often attacked adversaries, including liberals, socialists,

and their own heretics, remains inexcusable.^22

As organizers, Communist activists suffered from a tendency toward a

special kind of elitism that often made them incapable of working with

diverse groups sharing common goals. In some periods they turned this

streak of inhumanity against themselves, engaging in ugly campaigns of

smear and character assassination to eliminate "Titoists,"

"Browderites," "revisionists," "left-wing adventurists," or "white

chauvinists."

Moreover, the secrecy within which Communists often operated, while

sometimes justified by the danger of job loss or prosecution, served

to undermine the Party's moral legitimacy. An organizer's relationship

with his constituents depends on their belief in his integrity, and

this is especially true when the organizer is an outsider. Too often,

Communists undermined their own integrity by covering manipulative and

cynical acts with the quite plausible explanation that survival

required secrecy. The tendency of Communists to resort to First and

Fifth Amendment protection during the McCarthy period falls under

similar challenges. As Joseph Starobin asks:

Should left-wingers and Communists have gone to jail in large numbers?

Might they have been better off/politically/, in terms of

their/image/, to assert their affiliations, to proclaim them instead

of asserting their right to keep them private, to explain the issues

as they saw them, and to take the consequences?^23

Communist activists certainly did not lack courage or commitment to a

protracted struggle. Many risked prison, and some served prison

sentences; perhaps as many as one-third of the cadres painfully

accepted assignments to go underground in the early fifties. Their

Leninism had to navigate contradictory currents of Stalinism and

Americanization, militancy and opportunism.

Local Communist activists often lived a somewhat schizophrenic life,

alternately internationalist and indigenous, Bolshevik and

"progressive," admiring the Leninist model of cadre and yet falling

into more settled, familial patterns of activism. There was a clear if

often ignored sexual division of labor: men were more likely to be the

cadres, women performed auxiliary clerical functions and unnoticed but

essential neighborhood organizing.

The Party was also divided between theorists and intellectuals on the

one hand and field workers and activists on the other. As one field

worker proclaimed, "I couldn't be spending hours on ideological

conflicts; I'm an activist, not an intellectual." Many agree that the

bulk of an organizer's time went into local actions and much less went

into discussions and considerations of important theoretical or

programmatic matters.^24

Only a small proportion received the type of ideological and

intellectual training suggested by the Leninist ideal, an ideal that

formally sought the obliteration of the distinctions between thought

and action, intellectual and activist.

In fact, Party intellectuals faced chronic and ingrained suspicion,

even contempt, from Party leaders. Abe Shapiro sardonically charges

that the function of Party intellectuals was "to sell the/Daily

Worker/at the waterfront." He remembers checking on a new Party

document on the economy: "I actually read the document. I wanted to

know what the Hell it was." He found it infantile and far below what

well-trained but never used Party intellectuals and social scientists

could have produced. The Party rarely, except for showcase purposes,

relied on its trained intellectual or academic members; instead, it

called on Party functionaries, often of very narrow training, to write

about complex sociological, economic, and scientific matters. Theory

suffered as a result, and the Party, particularly after 1939, included

very few intellectuals.

Until the mid-fifties crisis, the Party, strangled by Stalinist dogma

and intolerance, was closed to intellectual discourse. Abe Shapiro

finally left the Party because his intellectual training hadgiven him

a commitment to intellectual honesty that he could not shake. Among

organizers, Party arrogance cut off messages from the grass roots.

Orders from what one veteran calls "the Cave of Winds"—Party

headquarters in New York—often contradicted practical organizing

experience.

The Party also suffered from insularity. Mark Greenly brought

interested fellow workers to a Party-dominated union meeting. They

were curious and "antiboss" but quite unsophisticated and not at all

ready to make any commitments. Unfortunately, the Party organizer

immediately started to discuss class struggle and a variety of

abstract political matters. The workers were quickly alienated and

frightened away, never to return. Ethel Paine recalls such

"inappropriate behavior" as the sectarian conversations Party people

would carry on in the presence of non-Communist acquaintances and

neighbors. Although chronically secretive about membership, Communists

could be remarkably insensitive to their audience in revealing ways. A

successful organizer learned when and how to introduce more

controversial ideas to nonmembers. Training, including the Party

schools, helped to some extent, but most Communists agree with the

veteran organizer who feels that such learning has to be done on the

job, by trial and error. Many Communists, like Sam Katz and

Caldwell, tell painful if sometimes hilarious tales of their own and

others' ineptitude as beginning organizers. Some discovered that they

simply were not suited for the job and would never develop the

personal qualities that make for a competent organizer. Several

veterans insist that organizers are born, not made. Yet relatively

introverted and socially awkward young people, inspired by the

idealism and the comradeship of the Communist movement, did transform

themselves into effective organizers. Vivian Gornick points out that

such transformations did not always survive the collapse of

association with the Party.^25

I did not, however, discover total or near total personality changes

caused either by joining or abandoning the Party.

Although most of the literature about radical organizers deals with

men, it is increasingly apparent that some of the mostsignificant and

consistently ignored organizing within the Communist Party involved

women. The ten women interviewed performed a rich variety of Party

tasks, but perhaps the most important were those not officially

designated, like the informal neighborhood activities organized by

Edith Samuels, described inChapter Five

.

Sarah Levy was also involved in such efforts. Sarah and her two

children joined her colonizer husband, Moe, in leaving the comfortable

Party concentration in the Strawberry Mansion section to live in a

nearby industrial town. She refers to the next three and a half years

as "not the easiest times and, yet to me, personally, one of the best

growing experiences—and I have never regretted it." (Moe's wry

rejoinder was "She didn't have to work the blast furnaces.")

There were only three Party families in the town, quite a difference

from the thirty or forty Party friends they left behind in Strawberry

Mansion. While Moe worked the furnaces and tried to develop contacts

with plant workers, Sarah joined a folk dance group at the local "Y,"

where she got to know Greek, Yugoslav, Italian, and other immigrant

women. Moe, limited in the plant to a small Party circle of colonizers

and sympathizers, was able to socialize with the husbands of Sarah's

folk dancing partners.

Colonizers often ended up working with a local Party apparatus while

their wives, working through neighborhood networks, reached into the

community through its women, older people, and children. Asie

Repice casually but proudly concluded about her work with a community

center during the war years; "I am an organizer, so I organized a

nursery." Her husband was in the service. Moving around to stay close

to his base, she put her organizing abilities and political values to

work. Such efforts remain an unwritten chapter in the history of

radical organizing.^26

*/functionaries/*

Few district functionaries other than Sam Darcy achieved any national

stature or had much leverage outside the district. Dave Davis, the

business manager of UE Local 155 and an importantPhiladelphia-area

labor leader, was often elected to the Party's national committee but

never entered the inner decision-making group. Other district

leaders—like Pat Toohey, Phil Bart, Phil Frankfeld, and Ed Strong—were

D.O.s sent into the district and then moved out again to other

assignments.

Most district functionaries played dominant roles within the district

committee and ran such important Party operations as the local

Progressive Party and the Civil Rights Congress. They drew meager

salaries, which were sometimes supplemented by Party-related

employment. The Party network, at least during the late thirties and

forties, could place members in some union jobs.^27

Possibly several dozen members depended on the Party for their

livelihood in this way.

*/nonmembers/*

One often encounters Communists who, for very specific reasons, were

not formal Party members. One former Progressive Party leader never

joined the Party but worked closely with district Communist leaders to

map strategy and coordinate activity. Some union leaders stayed out of

the Party to deny employers the red-baiting weapon, and a number

dropped out after the Taft-Hartley Act made a union officer liable to

prosecution for perjury if he lied about current Party membership.^28

*/professionals/*

Some professionals who joined the Party operated at a rank-and-file

level, belonging to a professional branch or club, attending meetings,

and fulfilling subscription quotas. Several recall being highly

impressed with the other professionals they met at Party functions.

But such members—often doctors, dentists, and architects—were on the

margins of Party life.

Many professionals, especially lawyers associated with Party causes,

found membership problematic and chose not to formalize their

relationships with the Party, though they might be members of a

professional club. "I fought against loose tongues," one states."I

never asked a soul whether they were Communists or not." Several

left-wing attorneys stress that they did not want to be in a position

to betray anyone or risk a perjury charge if questioned about their

own affiliations and associations. The law in America is a

conservative profession, and several Left lawyers paid a high price

for their efforts.^29

Another consideration was that the Party sometimes pressured lawyers

to use a particular legal strategy in Party-related cases, and such

pressure was more effectively applied to members.^30

One attorney notes that the Party itself seemed ambivalent about

requiring formal membership. A few district leaders pressured him to

join, while others understood that it was not particularly useful or

necessary.

Some lawyers, whether members or not, found their services very much

in demand. They were needed in labor negotiations, electoral

activities, and civil rights and civil liberties cases. In the late

forties and early fifties, Party-affiliated lawyers found it less easy

than it had been to earn a living through Party-based clients, such as

left-wing unions. Instead they were called upon to deal with the

titanic task of defending Party members indicted under the Smith Act

and other pieces of repressive legislation. Thanks to this demand, as

one attorney suggests, they received special treatment from the

district leadership. They mixed with labor leaders, politicians,

judges, and, at times, the national Party leadership. Several had more

contact with the non-Communist local authorities than district

functionaries had. One left-wing attorney recalls that he had the

luxury of criticizing Party policies and decisions, within limits,

because "I was needed, I was special, a lawyer."

More significant than membership was the degree of autonomy a member

had, and this was based on his importance to the Party or his

institutional leverage. A professional could get away with criticism

of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that would not be tolerated from

rank-and-filers or most cadres. A union leader could ignore Party

instructions, aware that his own organization was his power base. A

former Communist, George Charney, criticizes in his memoirsthe

"left-wing aristocracy of labor that rarely mingled with the herd of

party members or the middle functionaries."^31

Such trade-unions "influentials" often had contempt for functionaries

and would go over their heads to top leadership.

Those who entered the Party, at whatever level, in whatever role,

operated within a well-defined organization and lived within a

somewhat insular and often nurturing subculture that provided them

with formal and informal relationships. These relationships eased the

often lonely organizing work. One veteran unashamedly calls his fellow

Communist organizers "the most dedicated, most selfless people in the

struggle." Many would share Jessica Mitford's feelings:

I had regarded joining the Party as one of the most important

decisions of my adult life. I loved and admired the people in it, and

was more than willing to accept the leadership of those far more

experienced than I. Furthermore, the principle of democratic

centralism seemed to me essential to the functioning of a

revolutionary organization in a hostile world.^32

Any tendency to romanticize such activists must be tempered by an

awareness of their mistakes, limitations, and weaknesses, and it is

true that many non-Communists made similar commitments to organizing

the oppressed and the weak. They too merit consideration. These

Philadelphia veterans of the Communist Party are very human actors who

worked on a particular historical stage. Some conclude that their

years of effort never really brought any of their factory and shop

constituents into the movement. Like Sol Davis, they admit that they

were utter failures in that "cultural, political, and philosophical

wasteland" of blue-collar America. Others share the pride, perhaps the

arrogance, of one of Vivian Gornick's subjects:

We're everywhere, everywhere. We/saved/this fucking country. We went

to Spain, and because we did America understood fascism. We made

Vietnam come to an end, we're in there inWatergate. We built the CIO,

we got Roosevelt elected, we started black civil rights, we forced

this shitty country into every piece of action and legislation it has

ever taken. We did the dirty work and the Labor and Capital

establishments got the rewards. The Party helped make democracy

work.^33

The road from Spain to Watergate is a long one. Communists, euphoric

at their prospects in the heyday of CIO sit-downs and Popular Front

triumphs, later needed remarkable inner resources to sustain political

activity. They sensed the first tremors from the purge trials,

received a severe jolt from the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of

1939, and in the postwar years faced first political repression and

then, more painfully, internal disintegration and demoralization.

NEXT CHAPTER

seven: problems and crises, 1939–1956


the founder of Black Lives Matter once described herself as a trained

, like Obama, but I could only find this:

https://nypost.com/2020/06/25/blm-co-founder-describes-herself-as-trained-marxist/

On 10/17/22 10:32 wrote:

Since many believe Obama is running the Marxist Biden administration

We might want to look at a history of comnunist organizing,

euphemistically called a community organizing

https://temple.manifoldapp.org/read/philadelphia-communists-1936-1956/section/c5cbd6e3-ed24-4bcb-97b0-da424fc58416

*/the communist as organizer/*

In the period between the Great Crash and the McCarthy era the CPUSA

was the most effective organizing agency within the American

experience.^1

In this most politically stable of societies, radicals have usually

battered their heads against the stone wall of affluence, rising

expectations, and Democratic Party loyalty. Within the narrow space of

agitation allowed by the political order, Communist Party activists

built a small but influential organization devoted to organizing

constituencies for social change. According to even the most

unsympathetic accounts, Communist activists played important roles in

organizing the unemployed, evicted tenants, minorities, and workers in

a wide variety of fields. They were central in the emergence of the

CIO and thus in the organizing of workers in heavy industry and mass

production; they spearheaded the defense of the right of black people

to equality before the law and social and economic opportunity; and

they participated in virtually all of the nationalefforts to establish

humane social services and eliminate hunger, disease, and neglect from

our communities.^2

Many analysts question the motives of Communist Party activists, and

there certainly is controversy about the extent of their organizing

successes. Nevertheless, Communist organizing merits serious and

objective consideration. For a period of approximately thirty years,

Communist Party activists and organizers sought out constituents in

the mines, plants, and neighborhoods of the United States. Other

left-wing groups, such as the Socialist Party, the Trotskyist

Socialist Workers Party, and A. J. Muste's Workers Party, also deserve

study, but the CPUSA offers students the best opportunity to examine

the dynamics of organizing sponsored and directed by a radical

political group.^3

The organizers under consideration came to political maturity during

the 1930s, mostly in an era associated with the Popular Front, and

remained within the Party until at least the mid-Fifties. Indeed, many

remained active organizers and participants after leaving the

organizational framework of the Communist Party. In the thirties and

forties, they modified their Bolshevik rhetoric and participated in

antifascist alliances, worked for modest short-term successes within

the fledgling CIO, and provided support and manpower for a diverse

group of radical and progressive political movements and leaders,

including Democrats, Farmer-Laborites, the American Labor Party in New

York, and Communist Party councilmen in New York City, all under an

essentially New Deal banner.^4

Organizers operating in the greater Philadelphia district had

important trade-union successes and played a key role in organizing

unemployed councils, electoral efforts, tenant rights, and peace,

professional lobbying, civil liberties, ethnically based, and

neighborhood groups. For a period of approximately ten years, from

1936 to perhaps 1947, the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and

Delaware, District Three, played an important if modest role in the

political life of the area, generating ideas, programs, and visions

that later became the commonplaces of social policy.

The Party offered its membership several roles. One could remain at

the rank-and-file level, become a cadre, or rise to functionary. One

could engage in mass work within one of the Party fronts or a

non-Party organization (e.g., the YMCA) or one could become a

"colonizer," engaging in industrial organizing at the beck and call of

the Party. In addition, one could work within the professional

section, providing the Party with such services as legal counsel.^5

*/rank and file/*

At the lowest level of Party membership were the rank and file, the

proverbial "Jimmy Higginses" who worked within Party clubs and

branches, paid their dues, went to a variety of meetings, and joined

the mass organizations and fronts, often focusing on a specific issue

like Spain, civil rights, or Scottsboro. Such rank-and-filers were at

the heart of everyday activities and what Gornick calls "grinding

ordinariness."^6

There was an extraordinary turnover among such members, who often

became weary of meetings,/Daily Worker/solicitations, and office chores.

Many rank-and-filers began their activism while in college or

sometimes high school. The Philadelphia high school movement was quite

sizable, including ASU and YCL chapters in at least eight schools.

High school activists ranged throughout the city, meeting radical

peers, socializing, and developing their own circle of comrades. For

those who entered college either already active or about to be

radicalized, there was an almost dizzying flow of activities,

including demonstrations, marches, sit-downs, leaflettings,

fundraisers, dances, parties, socials, lectures, speeches—and

meetings. Always, there were meetings, one for every night of the

week, often more.^7

Enthusiastic, recently converted Communists, like their spiritual

children in the 1960s, had unbounded energy for political work. Most

speak of being aroused and inspired by their sense of the significance

of their efforts, the quality of their comrades, and the grandeur and

power of their movement. Abe Shapiro recalls being engrossed at one

time in the following activities: formal YCL meetings, ASU leadership,

a universityantiwar council (of which he was director), Spanish civil

war relief efforts, a variety of antifascist activities, a student-run

bookstore cooperative, and support work for assorted civil liberties

and civil rights causes. Some activists found schoolwork boring under

the circumstances and devoted all of their time to politics. A few

became "colonizers." In most cases, however, Communist students

completed their degree work, and if they dropped out of school, it was

often for financial reasons. For most, the excitement of campus

politics held their attention and their interest.

Some found Party youth work a path toward leadership, becoming

citywide or national ASU or YCL leaders. Others on leaving campus

became YCL branch or section organizers in different parts of the

district.

Many who did not attend college did neighborhood work with the YCL,

often focusing their mass organizational efforts through the American

League for Peace and Democracy. To many youthful rank-and-filers, "the

YCL became . . . Marxist-Leninist theory all mixed up with baseball,

screwing, dancing, selling the/Daily Worker/, bullshitting, and living

the American-Jewish street life."^8

Certainly the first flush of radicalism, the emotional high of

purposeful activity, the sense of accomplishment and of sacrifice for

the good of humanity, the work with fine and noble comrades, the love

affairs with those sharing a common vision, the expectation that the

future was indeed theirs, created a honeymoon effect for most young

Communists.

For some, the fad of radicalism passed upon graduation or thereabouts.

Others simply maintained a regular but distant "fellow-traveling" role

as they entered the work world. And many were disillusioned by the

Party's dogmatism or the great purge trials, the attacks on Trotsky,

or the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Others, including those

interviewed, remained in the Party. The shortest stay was six years,

and most remained loyal for twenty years or more. For all of those who

stayed, the Party and its small subculture became their lives.

Those working at the branch, club, and section levels were rarely on

the Party payroll and had to find work to supportthemselves. For

single people problems were few and life could be lived at a

double-time pace, working hard all day and then organizing and holding

meetings every night.

Some young Communists drifted for a time after school, doing Party

work but not settling into anything. Ben Green lived in Strawberry

Mansion, a lower-middle- and working-class Jewish neighborhood filled

with Party people at the time. He did some work with the American

League Against War and Fascism, spoke on street corners occasionally,

went to three to four meetings a week, and helped to start a union

local of public employees at his Works Progress Administration (WPA)

office. He remembers that the Party "made it a big thing" when he

shifted from the YCL to adult membership, but he was still looking at

his future with uncertainty.

Upon completing high school, George Paine felt that "sports were gone"

from his life except for an occasional neighborhood basketball game.

He kept in touch but saw less of old non-Party buddies and did

standard political work, "hustling the paper," going to meetings,

demonstrating. Finally he decided to go to college, suspending but not

ending his Party ties.

One rank-and-filer was a skilled craftsman, "glad of the class I was

born into." He belonged to a conservative craft union and limited his

political work to mass work at the local YMCA. He never really got

involved with a club or branch group but paid his dues, subscribed to

the paper, and worked with comrades to move the "Y" in a more

"progressive" direction. He was quite open about his views, which

would eventually get him into trouble at his job: "I felt that since

to me everything was so clear, they'd hug me."

Tim Palen, a farmer and skilled craftsman who lived in a rural suburb

of Philadelphia, worked with the Farmers Union. A Party

rank-and-filer, he helped farmers get low-interest loans through the

union and sympathetic banks. Palen never involved himself with Party

affairs in the city, and the highest office he held was dues secretary

of his section.

Since the Communist Party did not formally label members according to

their rank, it is not always clear who was a rank-and-filer and who

was considered cadre. One former district leader defines cadres as the

people in training for leadership, like officers in an army. The rank

and file are, therefore, foot soldiers, less involved and more a part

of their own neighborhood or plant, more likely to hold conventional

jobs, and more subject to pressures from neighbors, family, and

changing circumstances. Annie Kriegel, who analyzes the French

Communist Party as a set of concentric circles, places fellow

travelers who vote for the Party and read the Sunday Party press on

the "outer circle" and "ordinary party members" in the "first

circle."^9

Many observers describe such rank-and-filers as less "Bolshevik"—that

is, more likely to break Party discipline in everyday activity and

closer to the behavior and sensibilities of their non-Party peers.

Harvey Klehr puts it, "Many party members received no training of any

kind, attendance at party meetings was often spotty, and members

frequently ignored or failed to carry out assigned tasks."^10

Almond presents esoteric and exoteric models to distinguish

rank-and-filer from cadre, suggesting that the Party daily press

directed itself to the relatively idealistic and naive external

members, while the Comintern, Cominform, and internal Party journals

spoke to insiders and sophisticated activists.^11

*/cadre/*

The cadre has a "personal commitment." He or she is a "true

Bolshevik," internally Communized, with an almost priestly function

and sense of specialness. The cadre is a "professional revolutionary"

along Leninist lines.^12

Philip Selznick adds that cadres are "deployable personnel," available

to the Party at all times.^13

Some observers use "cadre" interchangeably with "functionary," while

others distinguish them. I interpret "functionary" as a more

administrative and executive role, usually carrying more authority and

generally associated with top district and national leadership.^14

Cadres were field workers, organizers, sometimes on the payroll but

often holding a non-Party job. Some more mobile cadres lefttheir own

neighborhoods, but most worked at least within their home districts.

(Functionaries, on the other hand, could be homegrown and

district-bound or at the service of the national, even international,

office.)

Many studies exaggerate the distinction between inner core and outer

rings because of their dependence on the abstractions of Party tracts.

Almond, for example, claims that the "true Communist" was beyond any

commitment to the Popular Front since he was presumably fully

Bolshevized and aware of the duplicity and tactical nature of

moderated rhetoric. Perhaps this is true of the national leadership,

who had associations with Moscow, training at the Lenin School, and

Comintern experience. At the district level, however, the patterns are

not as clear and seem to be more sensitive to generational, class, and

ethnic variables.^15

Among informants, the word "cadre" connoted "hard-working," "brave,"

"dogged," and "honorable"—someone who followed a Leninist model of

behavior; "functionary," on the other hand, was often used negatively

to imply that someone was "bureaucratic," "aloof," "abstract," and

"remote from struggle"—in brief, the Stalinist/apparatchik/. Neither

necessarily belonged to an inner core.

Fred Garst tells of the "process of indoctrination" he underwent as he

entered into Party life, beginning with "the regularity of systematic

participation"—dues, meetings, selling Party literature. He says that

the number of meetings began slowly to escalate to three, sometimes

five a week: section and subsection meetings, executive meetings,

front meetings. Next, Garst was asked to lead a discussion, then to

take responsibility for organizing the distribution of literature. He

started taking classes at a local Workers School in Marxist theory and

labor history. His commitment grew, his experience deepened, and he

soon became a section leader.

Some Philadelphia Communists moved from rank-and-file to cadre roles

during important political campaigns like theProgressive Party efforts

of 1947–1948. One woman had been serving in a minor capacity—"not

anything earth-shattering"—but was swept up by what Wallace referred

to as "Gideon's Army." She became a full-time Progressive Party

organizer at a district level, her "first real organizing"; from that

point on, she was fully involved in Party work at a variety of levels.

Some cadres emphasized front and mass work, serving as leaders of IWO

ethnic groups, youth groups, and defense groups. Such cadres were

particularly likely to operate clandestinely, although many

communicated their affilitation all but formally to constituents.

Cadres can be distinguished by their level of operation (club, branch,

section, or district), by their funding (on the payroll or holding a

regular job), by their relative mobility and willingness to do

political work outside their own milieu, and, finally, by the type of

organizing they did (mass or front work, electoral party work,

industrial organizing). The most prestigious cadres were those who did

full-time industrial organizing at the will of the Party leadership.

Such organizers, whether of working-class origins or not and whether

indigenous or colonizers, were the heart of Party operations, seeking

to develop a proletarian constituency and a trade-union base.

/ny tisa/

ny Tisa's history shows what an experienced organizer could

accomplish. Tisa, a second-generation son of illiterate, working-class

peasants, went to work at the Campbell's Soup plant in his own South

Camden "Little Italy" after completing high school in the early 1930s.

While working summers at the plant, he had been stimulated by

street-corner radical speakers and had joined the Socialist Party,

which had a presence at Campbell's Soup. The Socialists sent him to

Brookwood Labor College, where he met young Communists who impressed

him with their earnestness and apparent lack of factionalism, a

problem he encountered among the Socialists. He returned to help

organize the plant, starting with a small group of about a half-dozen

Italian workers, none of themCommunists, whom he molded through a

discussion group. His group received a federal charter from the

American Federation of Labor and began to develop an underground,

dues-paying membership.

Tisa tells of frustrating experiences within the conservative AFL. At

the 1939 convention in Tampa, for example, he found himself accidently

strolling into a local walk-out of Del Monte workers, just as the

police were arresting the leader. He spoke to thery workers and

was himself threatened with arrest. The workers exclaimed, "You got Bo

[the arrested leader] but you're not gonna get him," and made a ring

to escort Tisa to a streetcar. That evening, at his suggestion, there

was a union meeting, packed and excited. When Tisa tried to speak

about this remarkable experience at the AFL convention, he was refused

the floor. Finally he simply took over the podium and microphone.

Later that day, he met with other militants, including Communists, to

organize the ClO-affiliated Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union.

He took a detour, however, as events in Spain captured his energies

and idealism. Tisa served two years in Spain with the Abraham Lincoln

Brigade, gaining "a sense of internationalism that never escapes you."

On his return, he immediately set out to organize Campbell's Soup.

At the time Tisa began to organize it, Campbell's Soup employed about

5,500 full-time workers, with another 5,000 part-timers who came in

during the heavy season. At least half the workers were of Italian

descent; there were few blacks until the late 1940s. About half the

work force was female. There was a sexual division of labor based on

physical strength. Tisa's organizing group consisted of eleven or

twelve key workers, all leftists, mostly Italian. None were

"colonizers." All were indigenous workers who, under Tisa's

leadership, planned the unionization of Campbell's. Tisa recalls that

the group would often go crabbing and then return to his home to eat,

drink, and talk strategy. Tisa was the only member of the group on the

national union's payroll; he made a bare ten or fifteen dollars a week.

The organizers distributed themselves through the plant, reaching out

to obvious sympathizers and picking up useful information that they

would relay to Tisa, who could not enter the plant. He would take

names and visit workers in their homes, signing them up so that the

union could hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. He

would also cull information about working conditions from his

organizers and publish it in a union bulletin that they distributed

clandestinely, each carrying five to ten copies.

As their numbers increased, they became bolder and distributed the

much discussed bulletin openly. Campbell's Soup had Tisa arrested

once, but when he was released, many workers came to greet him. He

assured them that the law permitted them to organize a union. The

company tried many tactics to block his efforts: they started a

company union; they charged that he was a "Red" and had raped nuns and

killed priests in Spain. But Tisa lived in an Italian neighborhood

among plant workers and had a mother who had worked in the plant for

many years (cheering his speeches, often at the wrong times, he wryly

and lovingly notes); he could not be red-baited easily. He was an open

Communist; his neighbors would say, "ny's a Communist, but he's

all right." Despite the real barrier of the workers'traditional

Catholicism, he produced traditional trade-union benefits for members

and was popular enough locally, a neighbor, to remain in leadership

until the CIO purges of the late forties and early fifties finally

forced him out.

Tisa's experience highlights the importance of developing indigenous

personnel in organizing activity. His efforts were certainly bolstered

by support from the national union, by Communist Party training and

aid, and by the relative benevolence of the federal government as

expressed through the new NLRB. Yet the presence of local activists,

something the Communist Party sought but did not often achieve,

invariably made the task of organizing a plant or neighborhood that

much easier.

Other organizers performed similar roles without formally entering the

Party, preferring to remain independent although generally taking

positions consistent with Party policy.

/jack ryan/

Jack Ryan's old man was "a union man," later a foreman, a local

Democratic politician, and a bootlegger. As a teen-ager, and a high

school drop-out, Ryan ran poker and crap games in the neighborhood

with a group of friends, some of whom wound up in prison. He worked

sporadically as a roofer, during which time he was influenced by a

socialist "who couldn't read or write until he was twenty-three."

His father finally got him a job at a local plant, where he worked as

a crane operator in the early Depression years until he was laid off

in 1931. Over the next two years, he tried a small store and "managed

to hang on," selling water ice and running crap games. In 1933 he went

back to the plant just at the point when the local union was being

formed. Ryan recalls that he was "sworn in in an elevator with the

lights out in between the floors." Despite his emerging radical

politics, Ryan remained on the margins at first. "I deliberately

didn't get active," he says, indicating that life seemed too

unpredictable to take chances. In fact, he entered into a real-estate

business on the side, and it eventually provided him with the cushion

that allowed him to become more active within the plant.

Initially he ran for the general committee, backed by the other crane

operators because of his successful grievance work. Still cautious ("I

kept my mouth shut," he notes), Ryan went along with the conservative

local leadership while maintaining contact with the plant militants,

several of whom were old Wobblies suspicious of any Communist Party

leadership. Ryan worked primarily through his own crane operators'

network within the plant. He played the trade-offs in union posts

among the plant's crafts to become local president, an unpaid post,

and finally business representative, the only salaried position within

the local. Ryanremained close to the Party but never joined. "I was

more radical than they were," he brags. He criticizes their twists and

turns and suggests that "in the end you can't trust any of them"

because of "the goddamn line." He adds that the/Daily Worker/was

"written for a bunch of morons." On the other hand, Ryan admits that

Party union members were often competent and successful organizers and

that he agreed with most of their Popular Front stances, particularly

their antifascism. On the Soviets, he says that he did not spend too

much time thinking about them, but adds, "I don't blame them for

having a treaty with the Germans."

Ryan is clearly concerned with the practical issues of trade unionism.

In describing one of his national officers, he exclaims, "A dedicated

Communist but a helluva guy." He praises L. Lewis's efforts at

industrial unionization: "him and the Commies put together the CIO;

they were the smartest crowd." So Jack Ryan worked with but kept some

distance from "the Commies": "they were a little bit nutty." His union

was one of those expelled from the CIO in the late forties, and he

remains bitter about the Party's role in the union's decline. He

remained active, holding union office on and off until his retirement.

Ryan proudly concludes that he was placed on Social Security while on

strike for the last time in the early seventies.

ny Tisa and Jack Ryan were working-class organizers, with roots in

their ethnic communities, able to establish a rapport with their peers

and, at the same time, develop more sophisticated skills within a

broader and more ideological movement in or around the Communist

Party. Their failures were mostly exogenous, the results of

Taft-Hartley oaths, CIO purges, and McCarthyism in general.

Others operated in less favorable terrain, without the decided

advantages of an indigenous, working-class background. The most

characteristic Party labor organizer was a young, educated,

second-generation Jewish-American sent to "dig roots into the

working-class." The efforts of such organizers were prodigious; their

accomplishments, however, were more problematic.

/al schwartz/

Al Schwartz's father was a 1905er, a Party organizer in the garment

industry who had to open a small shop after he was blacklisted. Al, a

classic "red-diaper baby," went through all of the Party developmental

steps, from Young Pioneers through YCL to full Party involvement. Most

of all he wanted to be a radical journalist. For a few years he was

able to work on the Pennsylvania supplement to the/Worker/, but when

it folded, his journalism career seemed over. Over the next half-dozen

years, Schwartz, now in his late twenties, went into the shops as a

"colonizer." He remembers the sense of adventure and mission he felt

working at a few of the larger heavy industrial plants in the area.

Yet he also speaks of his sense of loss and defeat in having to

aban hopes of writing. Schwartz's response to colonizing was

painfully ambivalent: a college graduate and a Jew, born and bred

within the Yiddish-Left subculture, he both relished the contact with

blue-collar workers and remained distant from them. They were not like

him, he stresses; they were mired in back-breaking labor, poor

educations, and plebian forms of leisure. For a time he enjoyed the

camaraderie of the local taverns, but ultimately he was an outsider, a

Jewish family man and a struggling intellectual. Schwartz most fondly

recalls the hardness and fitness of his body, the feeling that he was

young and strong and physically a worker. But the successes were few,

and later the McCarthy period made such Party efforts even more

marginal. Schwartz found himself a family man in his mid-thirties

without a career or a profession; frustrated and drifting out of Party

life without drama or flourish, he moved to reorganize his life. His

political values held, but his colonizing days were over.

/sol davis/

Sol Davis grew up in a poor, working-class, immigrant household. He

was a bright young boy, and like many other upwardly aspiring Jewish

males, he flourished at the elite Central High School andbegan moving

toward a professional career. At this point, in the early years of the

Depression, he was swept off his feet, as he puts it, by the Communist

Party. After completing his schooling, he worked lackadaisically at

his profession while seeking an opportunity to go into the shops as a

Communist Party organizer; he was "determined to be shop worker."

His first attempts allowed him to learn something about machinery,

although in each instance he was fired for his inexperience and

incompetence. Finally he caught on. "I was in my element," he asserts,

describing the war years in heavy industry. For Davis, the good

organizer had to have a commitment to "the principles of Communism,"

"a talent for leadership," and a willingness to listen. A confident

speaker, whose words are clipped and terse, he worked twenty-nine

years in the shops, twenty-six of them at one plant. Located within

the city, the plant was staffed mostly by Catholic workers (Polish or

Irish), initially few blacks, and even fewer Jews.

Davis's recollections are filled with bitter refrains about

red-baiting and "turn-coat ex-CPers," sell-outs and "social

democrats." He is proud of his successes, which include chairing the

grievance committee and serving as shop steward during most of his

union years. Davis presents his life as devoted to organizing in the

shops; he never got involved in his neighborhood and tended to leave

Party electoral work to others. A hard-line orthodox Communist still,

Davis argues that those who abandoned the Party were "petty-bourgeois

with petty-bourgeois ideas," whereas he "was nursed out of the

trade-union movement." In the fifties, he admits, "life became

unpleasant," both in his largely Jewish lower-middle-class

neighborhood and in the shop, where "a certain resistance developed to

my activity" among people he calls anti-Communist socialists.

Davis believes that most American workers have been bought off in

"discrete and discernible fashion" by imperialist profits, manipulated

by the mass media, and blinded by nationalism, religion, and racism.

After spending almost thirty years in theindustrial heartland, Davis

remains "dedicated to an idea," an "unquestioned belief" in communism.

Yet when asked about his ability to convert workers to class

consciousness, a saddened Sol Davis replies, "Never—the shop was a

desert for me." He did not convert a single worker and was "in that

respect an utter failure." The shops, to the stoical Davis, were "a

cultural, political, and philosophical wasteland despite having made

so many friends." Sol Davis has kept the faith since he was "baptized"

in the movement; his singular lack of organizing success rests, in his

mind, on factors beyond his control—repression, cowardice,

self-interest. He is a confident man.

/ caldwell/

Other colonizers had more mixed results. Caldwell, a college

graduate with a middle-class WASP heritage, recalls that in his

initial colonizing effort, "I wasn't very smart and made a lot of

stupid mistakes—talked to people, became known as a troublemaker." He

was fired. Fortunately for Caldwell, his firing made him a "celebrated

case," and the predominantly Irish and Italian Catholic workers, and

even the conservative union officials, rallied to his support.

Caldwell says that whereas other Party organizers had their best

contact in their own departments, he touched bases throughout the

plant and often socialized at the local bar to maintain and develop

relationships. "A fair number knew I was a Communist," he says. "I

never denied it." But most did not. In most plants to admit membership

in the Party meant probable firing and certain harassment. For

organizers like Caldwell, discretion was the rule.

His efforts paid off against the union's local establishment. The

national, a left-wing union, sent in an organizer to help fashion a

local coalition to defeat the established group, and Caldwell worked

with him as elections chairman. The progressive slate was successful.

Caldwell, a leader of a left-wing veterans' group, participated in the

1946 strike surge. When mounted police chased people ontoporches in

Southwest Philadelphia to break up injunction-defying demonstrations,

the local CIO was able to bring out 25,000 workers to protest against

police brutality in front of City Hall. But such Popular Front-style

unified efforts were shattered by the developing Cold War consensus,

which began to drive radicals, particularly Party members, out of the

unions.

Caldwell shifted jobs in this period, finally taking a full-time

organizing job in a nearby industrial town. The plant had some IWO

members and a few Party members, but no organization. Caldwell, who

observes that "it really became difficult after the Korean War"

started, found some success in putting out a small paper and handing

it out at the main gates. He worked to develop contacts mainly by

distributing the Party paper, first for free, then by subscription.

Caldwell remembers proudly that he won a district drive with eighty

subscriptions in his area. Gains were modest: a Hungarian sympathizer

sent him two black shop stewards; then a few Irish Catholics made

contact. Caldwell recalls going into Philadelphia to see prize fights

with the latter workers, mixing pleasure with discussions of possible

articles about their area for the Party press.

But the times wrecked any chance Caldwell had of developing a Party

group. The FBI scared off possible sympathizers; he was arrested for

circulating antiwar petitions, and the venture finally ended in the

heyday of the McCarthy period when Caldwell was sent to join the

Party's underground.

Caldwell and Al Schwartz experienced the ebb of the progressive union

movement in the late forties and early fifties. Most Party labor

organizers and colonizers, however, joined the fray during the

extraordinary upsurge of the late thirties that established industrial

unionism through the CIO.

/milt goldberg/

Milt Goldberg, despite winning a Mayor's Scholarship, was unable to

continue his education after graduating from Central High School.

Instead, he scratched to make a living at odd jobs, gradually becoming

interested in radical politics. While he wasworking a pre-Christmas

job at Sears, the department store warehousemen went out on strike.

Clerks refused to cross the picket lines. Goldberg recalls that the

increasingly anxious owners persuaded the clerks to return to work

with promises of improved conditions and wage increases that were

never fulfilled; meanwhile, the warehousemen settled. In the

aftermath, the strike leaders were all fired. Goldberg says that many

of them were Communists and that he began to notice how often that was

the case: "I respected the Party people; they were able, talented people."

Goldberg became an organizer for a white-collar union dominated by

mobsters who made deals with management at the expense of the

membership. He describes his early efforts as "naive, inexperienced."

Goldberg played a key role in leading his membership out of the

corrupt union into a new CIO local, whose Philadelphia office staff

was dominated by Party organizers. In those days, the late thirties,

the era of sit-downs and a crescendo of collective bargaining

agreements, organizing was remarkably fluid. Goldberg says that

charters were granted easily and with little need for substantiation

or the apparatus of negotiation soon to appear under the NLRB. In

those days, he asserts with some nostalgia, one could go in and

organize a place in one or two days, present demands to the employer,

and make a deal. Such rapid victories were, of course, exceptions;

Goldberg also recalls the often brutal resistance of management,

particularly in heavy industry.

After serving in the war, Goldberg returned to his union efforts,

despite family advice that he try something more prestigious and

lucrative. The union was his life, so he stayed. He never formally

rejoined the Party, although he remained in close contact. The

Taft-Harley anti-Communist oath soon reinforced this decision.

Nevertheless, Goldberg and his small union were red-baited and

constantly under McCarthyite attack.

How did he survive? Goldberg argues that he "was very close to the

membership" and had solid support from his fellow leaders. He

emphasizes that the union provided real benefits and servicesto

membership and sustained their loyalty despite the attacks. In

addition, he notes that by this time the small union did not have a

Party group, only him. One of the more damaging policies of

Party-dominated unions was what Goldberg calls "the resolution

bit"—the passing of Party-sponsored resolutions on every issue from

Scottsboro to Spain. Too many left-wing unions manipulated such

resolutions without making any effort to educate the membership; all

that mattered was that local such-and-such of the so-and-so workers

sent a resolution attacking Franco's dictatorship in Spain. Goldberg

dropped such tactics in the postwar period, instead working with his

local's officers and servicing the practical needs of the membership.

By the mid-fifties, still a socialist, Milt Goldberg had become

estranged from the Communist Party.

As is true of most arts, the qualities that make for a successful

organizer are uncertain and descriptions are inevitably cliche-ridden.

As the experiences of ny Tisa and Jack Ryan indicate, having roots

in the work force being organized gives one a decided advantage. But

the Party could use only the troops it had available, and these were

for the most part educated, urban, Jewish Americans, most of whom had

no experience in the heavy industries that were their "colonies." Most

of them experienced frustration; one cadre estimates that 95 percent

of all Party colonizers failed. Too often colonizers were unable to

operate in a sea of Gentile proletarians. Fred Garst, stillry at

the Party for its insensitivity to context, charges that "the Left

didn't have any organizing skills." But some organizers, remarkably,

succeeded.

/ike samuels/

Ike Samuels still speaks with an accent that reveals the years he

spent in Eastern Europe before his mother, taking the remains of the

family silver, arrived in the United States. No red-diaper baby,

Samuels describes his youth as "street-wise" and his ambition as

making it in America. Like many others, however, "the whole thing

burst into flame" when the Depression forced him to dropout of school

and hunger marches, bonus marches, and unemployed council protests

acted on his emerging social conscience. Soon he was moving toward the

Party and engaging in union organizing.

Samuels, a gruff, self-deprecating man who often refers to his "big

mouth," rose to leadership within a small craft union and served on

the city CIO council. His CIO union was dominated by a Popular Front

coalition of the Party and a progressive Catholic group. The union

president, a leader of the latter, was incompetent; on several

occasions Samuels had to bail him out of collective-bargaining

disasters. Finally the Catholic faction and the Party faction sought

to replace the president with Samuels. The national Party leadership,

however, afraid of upsetting the delicate coalition, said no. Samuels

recalls that he "didn't even question" the decision, but he was

frustrated and soon left the union to become an organizer for a

larger, industrial union.

Samuels agrees with Milt Goldberg that it was relatively easy to be a

good organizer in that period. Labor was in an upswing, workers were

clamoring to be organized, NLRB cards were easy to accumulate. In

heavy industry, Samuels stresses, the key was to seek out the pockets

of old radical workers—not colonizers, he emphasizes—who had broken

down the old ethnic barriers. Many such organizers were members of the

IWO foreign-language federations. Next, one needed the "pie-cards,"

the full-time organizers supplied by the CIO itself, many of whom were

veteran radicals. Along with and sometimes among the pie-cards were

the younger Communists going into the shops, supported by a growing

and confident Party organization. A "highly developed structure,"

Samuels recalls, was essential to organizing success. One had to

develop shop committees and day-to-day contacts in each department.

The sense of strength provided by the union itself and, crucially, by

its CIO sponsor, allowed workers to imagine that the employers could

be successfully challenged. In the automobile, steel, rubber, mining,

and electrical equipment industries, workers facedmammoth corporations

willing to use any means necessary to throw back the unionist surge.

The New Deal, by encouraging a more neutral judiciary and law

enforcement role, made it easier for the coordinated CIO drives to

gain concessions from corporate heads. Samuels suggests that the

workers, some of whom had backed decades of unsuccessful rank-and-file

efforts, needed the sense that they were a part of a powerful

coalition. L. Lewis appealed to this sense when he proclaimed,

"The President want you to join a union." Such a coalition advanced

unionization at the same time that it necessitated concessions and

strictures that limited the leverage of the newly legitimized

unions.^16

Samuels argues that it was imperative for organizers to have knowledge

of their industries. He deliberately worked in a craft shop to learn

the trade and later carefully studied one heavy industry before going

out to organize its workers. He was not typical. Hodee Edwards, a

thirties organizer, stresses "our consistent failure to investigate

the neighborhoods and factories where we tried to work, thus applying

a generalized, sectarian plan usually incomprehensible to those we

wanted to reach."^17

And Sam Katz suggests that the Party did not always recognize the

tension between the leadership and the activist/organizer over the

pace and nature of organizing. The functionaries often pushed for the

most advanced positions, including the "resolutions bit," whereas the

organizers focused on the issues that confronted their constituents.

Conflict was inevitable between broad policy and local needs and

variations, and between policy planners and functionaries and field

organizers and the rank and file. It is clear that the Communist Party

suffered chronically from top-heavy decision making, which often left

local organizers and members with policy directives that made little

sense in local circumstances.

In addition to organizational strength and preparation, Samuels feels

that leadership ability and, at times, personal courage must be

demonstrated. On several occasions he had to take risks or lose the

confidence of his membership. In one local the workers affectionately

referred to him as "R.R.J.B.," Red Russian JewBastard. He tells of

organizing workers in a small Georgia company town. Fifteen hundred

were on strike, and the patriarchal owners were negotiating only under

pressure from the NLRB. They were stalling, however, so Samuels called

on the work force to increase the pressure by massing outside the

building where the negotiations were taking place. The next day, in

the midst of bargaining, Samuels noticed the face of the company's

attorney turning an ash white as he glanced out the window. What he

saw were about three hundred workers marching toward the building

carrying a rope; lynching was on their agenda. Samuels went out and

calmed them down, "modified" their demands, and then wrapped up

negotiations. His early organizing days also included maritime

struggles with gangster elements who were not beyond "bumping off"

militants. Samuels implies that the Left elements fought back,

sometimes resorting to their own brand of physical intimidation.^18

Peggy Dennis describes the Bolshevik ideal as "soldiers in a

revolutionary army at permanent war with a powerful class enemy." And

"in permanent war, doubts or questions are treason."^19

Yet as Joseph Starobin asks, "How could the Leninist equilibrium be

sustained in a country so different from Lenin's?"^20

In fact, it was sustained unevenly and at a price. In a society with a

tradition of civil liberties (albeit inconsistently applied and

occasionally suspended in moments of stress) and a remarkably

resilient political democracy, the Leninist model, hardened and

distorted by Stalinism, mixed uncomfortably with American

realities.^21

At its best the Leninist ideal encouraged the incredible levels of

hard work and perseverance that even critics of Communism grant to its

cadres; it also evoked such personal qualities as integrity, courage,

honesty, and militancy. Yet the ideal seemed to degenerate too easily

into a model of behavior appropriately labeled Stalinist. Communist

cadres accepted deceptive tactics and strategies that inevitably

backfired and undermined theirintegrity and reputations—for example,

the front groups that "flip-flopped" at Party command after years of

denying Party domination. The intolerance and viciousness with which

Communists often attacked adversaries, including liberals, socialists,

and their own heretics, remains inexcusable.^22

As organizers, Communist activists suffered from a tendency toward a

special kind of elitism that often made them incapable of working with

diverse groups sharing common goals. In some periods they turned this

streak of inhumanity against themselves, engaging in ugly campaigns of

smear and character assassination to eliminate "Titoists,"

"Browderites," "revisionists," "left-wing adventurists," or "white

chauvinists."

Moreover, the secrecy within which Communists often operated, while

sometimes justified by the danger of job loss or prosecution, served

to undermine the Party's moral legitimacy. An organizer's relationship

with his constituents depends on their belief in his integrity, and

this is especially true when the organizer is an outsider. Too often,

Communists undermined their own integrity by covering manipulative and

cynical acts with the quite plausible explanation that survival

required secrecy. The tendency of Communists to resort to First and

Fifth Amendment protection during the McCarthy period falls under

similar challenges. As Joseph Starobin asks:

Should left-wingers and Communists have gone to jail in large numbers?

Might they have been better off/politically/, in terms of

their/image/, to assert their affiliations, to proclaim them instead

of asserting their right to keep them private, to explain the issues

as they saw them, and to take the consequences?^23

Communist activists certainly did not lack courage or commitment to a

protracted struggle. Many risked prison, and some served prison

sentences; perhaps as many as one-third of the cadres painfully

accepted assignments to go underground in the early fifties. Their

Leninism had to navigate contradictory currents of Stalinism and

Americanization, militancy and opportunism.

Local Communist activists often lived a somewhat schizophrenic life,

alternately internationalist and indigenous, Bolshevik and

"progressive," admiring the Leninist model of cadre and yet falling

into more settled, familial patterns of activism. There was a clear if

often ignored sexual division of labor: men were more likely to be the

cadres, women performed auxiliary clerical functions and unnoticed but

essential neighborhood organizing.

The Party was also divided between theorists and intellectuals on the

one hand and field workers and activists on the other. As one field

worker proclaimed, "I couldn't be spending hours on ideological

conflicts; I'm an activist, not an intellectual." Many agree that the

bulk of an organizer's time went into local actions and much less went

into discussions and considerations of important theoretical or

programmatic matters.^24

Only a small proportion received the type of ideological and

intellectual training suggested by the Leninist ideal, an ideal that

formally sought the obliteration of the distinctions between thought

and action, intellectual and activist.

In fact, Party intellectuals faced chronic and ingrained suspicion,

even contempt, from Party leaders. Abe Shapiro sardonically charges

that the function of Party intellectuals was "to sell the/Daily

Worker/at the waterfront." He remembers checking on a new Party

document on the economy: "I actually read the document. I wanted to

know what the Hell it was." He found it infantile and far below what

well-trained but never used Party intellectuals and social scientists

could have produced. The Party rarely, except for showcase purposes,

relied on its trained intellectual or academic members; instead, it

called on Party functionaries, often of very narrow training, to write

about complex sociological, economic, and scientific matters. Theory

suffered as a result, and the Party, particularly after 1939, included

very few intellectuals.

Until the mid-fifties crisis, the Party, strangled by Stalinist dogma

and intolerance, was closed to intellectual discourse. Abe Shapiro

finally left the Party because his intellectual training hadgiven him

a commitment to intellectual honesty that he could not shake. Among

organizers, Party arrogance cut off messages from the grass roots.

Orders from what one veteran calls "the Cave of Winds"—Party

headquarters in New York—often contradicted practical organizing

experience.

The Party also suffered from insularity. Mark Greenly brought

interested fellow workers to a Party-dominated union meeting. They

were curious and "antiboss" but quite unsophisticated and not at all

ready to make any commitments. Unfortunately, the Party organizer

immediately started to discuss class struggle and a variety of

abstract political matters. The workers were quickly alienated and

frightened away, never to return. Ethel Paine recalls such

"inappropriate behavior" as the sectarian conversations Party people

would carry on in the presence of non-Communist acquaintances and

neighbors. Although chronically secretive about membership, Communists

could be remarkably insensitive to their audience in revealing ways. A

successful organizer learned when and how to introduce more

controversial ideas to nonmembers. Training, including the Party

schools, helped to some extent, but most Communists agree with the

veteran organizer who feels that such learning has to be done on the

job, by trial and error. Many Communists, like Sam Katz and

Caldwell, tell painful if sometimes hilarious tales of their own and

others' ineptitude as beginning organizers. Some discovered that they

simply were not suited for the job and would never develop the

personal qualities that make for a competent organizer. Several

veterans insist that organizers are born, not made. Yet relatively

introverted and socially awkward young people, inspired by the

idealism and the comradeship of the Communist movement, did transform

themselves into effective organizers. Vivian Gornick points out that

such transformations did not always survive the collapse of

association with the Party.^25

I did not, however, discover total or near total personality changes

caused either by joining or abandoning the Party.

Although most of the literature about radical organizers deals with

men, it is increasingly apparent that some of the mostsignificant and

consistently ignored organizing within the Communist Party involved

women. The ten women interviewed performed a rich variety of Party

tasks, but perhaps the most important were those not officially

designated, like the informal neighborhood activities organized by

Edith Samuels, described inChapter Five

.

Sarah Levy was also involved in such efforts. Sarah and her two

children joined her colonizer husband, Moe, in leaving the comfortable

Party concentration in the Strawberry Mansion section to live in a

nearby industrial town. She refers to the next three and a half years

as "not the easiest times and, yet to me, personally, one of the best

growing experiences—and I have never regretted it." (Moe's wry

rejoinder was "She didn't have to work the blast furnaces.")

There were only three Party families in the town, quite a difference

from the thirty or forty Party friends they left behind in Strawberry

Mansion. While Moe worked the furnaces and tried to develop contacts

with plant workers, Sarah joined a folk dance group at the local "Y,"

where she got to know Greek, Yugoslav, Italian, and other immigrant

women. Moe, limited in the plant to a small Party circle of colonizers

and sympathizers, was able to socialize with the husbands of Sarah's

folk dancing partners.

Colonizers often ended up working with a local Party apparatus while

their wives, working through neighborhood networks, reached into the

community through its women, older people, and children. Asie

Repice casually but proudly concluded about her work with a community

center during the war years; "I am an organizer, so I organized a

nursery." Her husband was in the service. Moving around to stay close

to his base, she put her organizing abilities and political values to

work. Such efforts remain an unwritten chapter in the history of

radical organizing.^26

*/functionaries/*

Few district functionaries other than Sam Darcy achieved any national

stature or had much leverage outside the district. Dave Davis, the

business manager of UE Local 155 and an importantPhiladelphia-area

labor leader, was often elected to the Party's national committee but

never entered the inner decision-making group. Other district

leaders—like Pat Toohey, Phil Bart, Phil Frankfeld, and Ed Strong—were

D.O.s sent into the district and then moved out again to other

assignments.

Most district functionaries played dominant roles within the district

committee and ran such important Party operations as the local

Progressive Party and the Civil Rights Congress. They drew meager

salaries, which were sometimes supplemented by Party-related

employment. The Party network, at least during the late thirties and

forties, could place members in some union jobs.^27

Possibly several dozen members depended on the Party for their

livelihood in this way.

*/nonmembers/*

One often encounters Communists who, for very specific reasons, were

not formal Party members. One former Progressive Party leader never

joined the Party but worked closely with district Communist leaders to

map strategy and coordinate activity. Some union leaders stayed out of

the Party to deny employers the red-baiting weapon, and a number

dropped out after the Taft-Hartley Act made a union officer liable to

prosecution for perjury if he lied about current Party membership.^28

*/professionals/*

Some professionals who joined the Party operated at a rank-and-file

level, belonging to a professional branch or club, attending meetings,

and fulfilling subscription quotas. Several recall being highly

impressed with the other professionals they met at Party functions.

But such members—often doctors, dentists, and architects—were on the

margins of Party life.

Many professionals, especially lawyers associated with Party causes,

found membership problematic and chose not to formalize their

relationships with the Party, though they might be members of a

professional club. "I fought against loose tongues," one states."I

never asked a soul whether they were Communists or not." Several

left-wing attorneys stress that they did not want to be in a position

to betray anyone or risk a perjury charge if questioned about their

own affiliations and associations. The law in America is a

conservative profession, and several Left lawyers paid a high price

for their efforts.^29

Another consideration was that the Party sometimes pressured lawyers

to use a particular legal strategy in Party-related cases, and such

pressure was more effectively applied to members.^30

One attorney notes that the Party itself seemed ambivalent about

requiring formal membership. A few district leaders pressured him to

join, while others understood that it was not particularly useful or

necessary.

Some lawyers, whether members or not, found their services very much

in demand. They were needed in labor negotiations, electoral

activities, and civil rights and civil liberties cases. In the late

forties and early fifties, Party-affiliated lawyers found it less easy

than it had been to earn a living through Party-based clients, such as

left-wing unions. Instead they were called upon to deal with the

titanic task of defending Party members indicted under the Smith Act

and other pieces of repressive legislation. Thanks to this demand, as

one attorney suggests, they received special treatment from the

district leadership. They mixed with labor leaders, politicians,

judges, and, at times, the national Party leadership. Several had more

contact with the non-Communist local authorities than district

functionaries had. One left-wing attorney recalls that he had the

luxury of criticizing Party policies and decisions, within limits,

because "I was needed, I was special, a lawyer."

More significant than membership was the degree of autonomy a member

had, and this was based on his importance to the Party or his

institutional leverage. A professional could get away with criticism

of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that would not be tolerated from

rank-and-filers or most cadres. A union leader could ignore Party

instructions, aware that his own organization was his power base. A

former Communist, George Charney, criticizes in his memoirsthe

"left-wing aristocracy of labor that rarely mingled with the herd of

party members or the middle functionaries."^31

Such trade-unions "influentials" often had contempt for functionaries

and would go over their heads to top leadership.

Those who entered the Party, at whatever level, in whatever role,

operated within a well-defined organization and lived within a

somewhat insular and often nurturing subculture that provided them

with formal and informal relationships. These relationships eased the

often lonely organizing work. One veteran unashamedly calls his fellow

Communist organizers "the most dedicated, most selfless people in the

struggle." Many would share Jessica Mitford's feelings:

I had regarded joining the Party as one of the most important

decisions of my adult life. I loved and admired the people in it, and

was more than willing to accept the leadership of those far more

experienced than I. Furthermore, the principle of democratic

centralism seemed to me essential to the functioning of a

revolutionary organization in a hostile world.^32

Any tendency to romanticize such activists must be tempered by an

awareness of their mistakes, limitations, and weaknesses, and it is

true that many non-Communists made similar commitments to organizing

the oppressed and the weak. They too merit consideration. These

Philadelphia veterans of the Communist Party are very human actors who

worked on a particular historical stage. Some conclude that their

years of effort never really brought any of their factory and shop

constituents into the movement. Like Sol Davis, they admit that they

were utter failures in that "cultural, political, and philosophical

wasteland" of blue-collar America. Others share the pride, perhaps the

arrogance, of one of Vivian Gornick's subjects:

We're everywhere, everywhere. We/saved/this fucking country. We went

to Spain, and because we did America understood fascism. We made

Vietnam come to an end, we're in there inWatergate. We built the CIO,

we got Roosevelt elected, we started black civil rights, we forced

this shitty country into every piece of action and legislation it has

ever taken. We did the dirty work and the Labor and Capital

establishments got the rewards. The Party helped make democracy

work.^33

The road from Spain to Watergate is a long one. Communists, euphoric

at their prospects in the heyday of CIO sit-downs and Popular Front

triumphs, later needed remarkable inner resources to sustain political

activity. They sensed the first tremors from the purge trials,

received a severe jolt from the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of

1939, and in the postwar years faced first political repression and

then, more painfully, internal disintegration and demoralization.

NEXT CHAPTER

seven: problems and crises, 1939–1956


the founder of Black Lives Matter once described herself as a trained

, like Obama, but I could only find this:

https://nypost.com/2020/06/25/blm-co-founder-describes-herself-as-trained-marxist/

On 10/17/22 10:32 wrote:

Since many believe Obama is running the Marxist Biden administration

We might want to look at a history of comnunist organizing,

euphemistically called a community organizing

https://temple.manifoldapp.org/read/philadelphia-communists-1936-1956/section/c5cbd6e3-ed24-4bcb-97b0-da424fc58416

*/the communist as organizer/*

In the period between the Great Crash and the McCarthy era the CPUSA

was the most effective organizing agency within the American

experience.^1

In this most politically stable of societies, radicals have usually

battered their heads against the stone wall of affluence, rising

expectations, and Democratic Party loyalty. Within the narrow space of

agitation allowed by the political order, Communist Party activists

built a small but influential organization devoted to organizing

constituencies for social change. According to even the most

unsympathetic accounts, Communist activists played important roles in

organizing the unemployed, evicted tenants, minorities, and workers in

a wide variety of fields. They were central in the emergence of the

CIO and thus in the organizing of workers in heavy industry and mass

production; they spearheaded the defense of the right of black people

to equality before the law and social and economic opportunity; and

they participated in virtually all of the nationalefforts to establish

humane social services and eliminate hunger, disease, and neglect from

our communities.^2

Many analysts question the motives of Communist Party activists, and

there certainly is controversy about the extent of their organizing

successes. Nevertheless, Communist organizing merits serious and

objective consideration. For a period of approximately thirty years,

Communist Party activists and organizers sought out constituents in

the mines, plants, and neighborhoods of the United States. Other

left-wing groups, such as the Socialist Party, the Trotskyist

Socialist Workers Party, and A. J. Muste's Workers Party, also deserve

study, but the CPUSA offers students the best opportunity to examine

the dynamics of organizing sponsored and directed by a radical

political group.^3

The organizers under consideration came to political maturity during

the 1930s, mostly in an era associated with the Popular Front, and

remained within the Party until at least the mid-Fifties. Indeed, many

remained active organizers and participants after leaving the

organizational framework of the Communist Party. In the thirties and

forties, they modified their Bolshevik rhetoric and participated in

antifascist alliances, worked for modest short-term successes within

the fledgling CIO, and provided support and manpower for a diverse

group of radical and progressive political movements and leaders,

including Democrats, Farmer-Laborites, the American Labor Party in New

York, and Communist Party councilmen in New York City, all under an

essentially New Deal banner.^4

Organizers operating in the greater Philadelphia district had

important trade-union successes and played a key role in organizing

unemployed councils, electoral efforts, tenant rights, and peace,

professional lobbying, civil liberties, ethnically based, and

neighborhood groups. For a period of approximately ten years, from

1936 to perhaps 1947, the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and

Delaware, District Three, played an important if modest role in the

political life of the area, generating ideas, programs, and visions

that later became the commonplaces of social policy.

The Party offered its membership several roles. One could remain at

the rank-and-file level, become a cadre, or rise to functionary. One

could engage in mass work within one of the Party fronts or a

non-Party organization (e.g., the YMCA) or one could become a

"colonizer," engaging in industrial organizing at the beck and call of

the Party. In addition, one could work within the professional

section, providing the Party with such services as legal counsel.^5

*/rank and file/*

At the lowest level of Party membership were the rank and file, the

proverbial "Jimmy Higginses" who worked within Party clubs and

branches, paid their dues, went to a variety of meetings, and joined

the mass organizations and fronts, often focusing on a specific issue

like Spain, civil rights, or Scottsboro. Such rank-and-filers were at

the heart of everyday activities and what Gornick calls "grinding

ordinariness."^6

There was an extraordinary turnover among such members, who often

became weary of meetings,/Daily Worker/solicitations, and office chores.

Many rank-and-filers began their activism while in college or

sometimes high school. The Philadelphia high school movement was quite

sizable, including ASU and YCL chapters in at least eight schools.

High school activists ranged throughout the city, meeting radical

peers, socializing, and developing their own circle of comrades. For

those who entered college either already active or about to be

radicalized, there was an almost dizzying flow of activities,

including demonstrations, marches, sit-downs, leaflettings,

fundraisers, dances, parties, socials, lectures, speeches—and

meetings. Always, there were meetings, one for every night of the

week, often more.^7

Enthusiastic, recently converted Communists, like their spiritual

children in the 1960s, had unbounded energy for political work. Most

speak of being aroused and inspired by their sense of the significance

of their efforts, the quality of their comrades, and the grandeur and

power of their movement. Abe Shapiro recalls being engrossed at one

time in the following activities: formal YCL meetings, ASU leadership,

a universityantiwar council (of which he was director), Spanish civil

war relief efforts, a variety of antifascist activities, a student-run

bookstore cooperative, and support work for assorted civil liberties

and civil rights causes. Some activists found schoolwork boring under

the circumstances and devoted all of their time to politics. A few

became "colonizers." In most cases, however, Communist students

completed their degree work, and if they dropped out of school, it was

often for financial reasons. For most, the excitement of campus

politics held their attention and their interest.

Some found Party youth work a path toward leadership, becoming

citywide or national ASU or YCL leaders. Others on leaving campus

became YCL branch or section organizers in different parts of the

district.

Many who did not attend college did neighborhood work with the YCL,

often focusing their mass organizational efforts through the American

League for Peace and Democracy. To many youthful rank-and-filers, "the

YCL became . . . Marxist-Leninist theory all mixed up with baseball,

screwing, dancing, selling the/Daily Worker/, bullshitting, and living

the American-Jewish street life."^8

Certainly the first flush of radicalism, the emotional high of

purposeful activity, the sense of accomplishment and of sacrifice for

the good of humanity, the work with fine and noble comrades, the love

affairs with those sharing a common vision, the expectation that the

future was indeed theirs, created a honeymoon effect for most young

Communists.

For some, the fad of radicalism passed upon graduation or thereabouts.

Others simply maintained a regular but distant "fellow-traveling" role

as they entered the work world. And many were disillusioned by the

Party's dogmatism or the great purge trials, the attacks on Trotsky,

or the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Others, including those

interviewed, remained in the Party. The shortest stay was six years,

and most remained loyal for twenty years or more. For all of those who

stayed, the Party and its small subculture became their lives.

Those working at the branch, club, and section levels were rarely on

the Party payroll and had to find work to supportthemselves. For

single people problems were few and life could be lived at a

double-time pace, working hard all day and then organizing and holding

meetings every night.

Some young Communists drifted for a time after school, doing Party

work but not settling into anything. Ben Green lived in Strawberry

Mansion, a lower-middle- and working-class Jewish neighborhood filled

with Party people at the time. He did some work with the American

League Against War and Fascism, spoke on street corners occasionally,

went to three to four meetings a week, and helped to start a union

local of public employees at his Works Progress Administration (WPA)

office. He remembers that the Party "made it a big thing" when he

shifted from the YCL to adult membership, but he was still looking at

his future with uncertainty.

Upon completing high school, George Paine felt that "sports were gone"

from his life except for an occasional neighborhood basketball game.

He kept in touch but saw less of old non-Party buddies and did

standard political work, "hustling the paper," going to meetings,

demonstrating. Finally he decided to go to college, suspending but not

ending his Party ties.

One rank-and-filer was a skilled craftsman, "glad of the class I was

born into." He belonged to a conservative craft union and limited his

political work to mass work at the local YMCA. He never really got

involved with a club or branch group but paid his dues, subscribed to

the paper, and worked with comrades to move the "Y" in a more

"progressive" direction. He was quite open about his views, which

would eventually get him into trouble at his job: "I felt that since

to me everything was so clear, they'd hug me."

Tim Palen, a farmer and skilled craftsman who lived in a rural suburb

of Philadelphia, worked with the Farmers Union. A Party

rank-and-filer, he helped farmers get low-interest loans through the

union and sympathetic banks. Palen never involved himself with Party

affairs in the city, and the highest office he held was dues secretary

of his section.

Since the Communist Party did not formally label members according to

their rank, it is not always clear who was a rank-and-filer and who

was considered cadre. One former district leader defines cadres as the

people in training for leadership, like officers in an army. The rank

and file are, therefore, foot soldiers, less involved and more a part

of their own neighborhood or plant, more likely to hold conventional

jobs, and more subject to pressures from neighbors, family, and

changing circumstances. Annie Kriegel, who analyzes the French

Communist Party as a set of concentric circles, places fellow

travelers who vote for the Party and read the Sunday Party press on

the "outer circle" and "ordinary party members" in the "first

circle."^9

Many observers describe such rank-and-filers as less "Bolshevik"—that

is, more likely to break Party discipline in everyday activity and

closer to the behavior and sensibilities of their non-Party peers.

Harvey Klehr puts it, "Many party members received no training of any

kind, attendance at party meetings was often spotty, and members

frequently ignored or failed to carry out assigned tasks."^10

Almond presents esoteric and exoteric models to distinguish

rank-and-filer from cadre, suggesting that the Party daily press

directed itself to the relatively idealistic and naive external

members, while the Comintern, Cominform, and internal Party journals

spoke to insiders and sophisticated activists.^11

*/cadre/*

The cadre has a "personal commitment." He or she is a "true

Bolshevik," internally Communized, with an almost priestly function

and sense of specialness. The cadre is a "professional revolutionary"

along Leninist lines.^12

Philip Selznick adds that cadres are "deployable personnel," available

to the Party at all times.^13

Some observers use "cadre" interchangeably with "functionary," while

others distinguish them. I interpret "functionary" as a more

administrative and executive role, usually carrying more authority and

generally associated with top district and national leadership.^14

Cadres were field workers, organizers, sometimes on the payroll but

often holding a non-Party job. Some more mobile cadres lefttheir own

neighborhoods, but most worked at least within their home districts.

(Functionaries, on the other hand, could be homegrown and

district-bound or at the service of the national, even international,

office.)

Many studies exaggerate the distinction between inner core and outer

rings because of their dependence on the abstractions of Party tracts.

Almond, for example, claims that the "true Communist" was beyond any

commitment to the Popular Front since he was presumably fully

Bolshevized and aware of the duplicity and tactical nature of

moderated rhetoric. Perhaps this is true of the national leadership,

who had associations with Moscow, training at the Lenin School, and

Comintern experience. At the district level, however, the patterns are

not as clear and seem to be more sensitive to generational, class, and

ethnic variables.^15

Among informants, the word "cadre" connoted "hard-working," "brave,"

"dogged," and "honorable"—someone who followed a Leninist model of

behavior; "functionary," on the other hand, was often used negatively

to imply that someone was "bureaucratic," "aloof," "abstract," and

"remote from struggle"—in brief, the Stalinist/apparatchik/. Neither

necessarily belonged to an inner core.

Fred Garst tells of the "process of indoctrination" he underwent as he

entered into Party life, beginning with "the regularity of systematic

participation"—dues, meetings, selling Party literature. He says that

the number of meetings began slowly to escalate to three, sometimes

five a week: section and subsection meetings, executive meetings,

front meetings. Next, Garst was asked to lead a discussion, then to

take responsibility for organizing the distribution of literature. He

started taking classes at a local Workers School in Marxist theory and

labor history. His commitment grew, his experience deepened, and he

soon became a section leader.

Some Philadelphia Communists moved from rank-and-file to cadre roles

during important political campaigns like theProgressive Party efforts

of 1947–1948. One woman had been serving in a minor capacity—"not

anything earth-shattering"—but was swept up by what Wallace referred

to as "Gideon's Army." She became a full-time Progressive Party

organizer at a district level, her "first real organizing"; from that

point on, she was fully involved in Party work at a variety of levels.

Some cadres emphasized front and mass work, serving as leaders of IWO

ethnic groups, youth groups, and defense groups. Such cadres were

particularly likely to operate clandestinely, although many

communicated their affilitation all but formally to constituents.

Cadres can be distinguished by their level of operation (club, branch,

section, or district), by their funding (on the payroll or holding a

regular job), by their relative mobility and willingness to do

political work outside their own milieu, and, finally, by the type of

organizing they did (mass or front work, electoral party work,

industrial organizing). The most prestigious cadres were those who did

full-time industrial organizing at the will of the Party leadership.

Such organizers, whether of working-class origins or not and whether

indigenous or colonizers, were the heart of Party operations, seeking

to develop a proletarian constituency and a trade-union base.

/ny tisa/

ny Tisa's history shows what an experienced organizer could

accomplish. Tisa, a second-generation son of illiterate, working-class

peasants, went to work at the Campbell's Soup plant in his own South

Camden "Little Italy" after completing high school in the early 1930s.

While working summers at the plant, he had been stimulated by

street-corner radical speakers and had joined the Socialist Party,

which had a presence at Campbell's Soup. The Socialists sent him to

Brookwood Labor College, where he met young Communists who impressed

him with their earnestness and apparent lack of factionalism, a

problem he encountered among the Socialists. He returned to help

organize the plant, starting with a small group of about a half-dozen

Italian workers, none of themCommunists, whom he molded through a

discussion group. His group received a federal charter from the

American Federation of Labor and began to develop an underground,

dues-paying membership.

Tisa tells of frustrating experiences within the conservative AFL. At

the 1939 convention in Tampa, for example, he found himself accidently

strolling into a local walk-out of Del Monte workers, just as the

police were arresting the leader. He spoke to thery workers and

was himself threatened with arrest. The workers exclaimed, "You got Bo

[the arrested leader] but you're not gonna get him," and made a ring

to escort Tisa to a streetcar. That evening, at his suggestion, there

was a union meeting, packed and excited. When Tisa tried to speak

about this remarkable experience at the AFL convention, he was refused

the floor. Finally he simply took over the podium and microphone.

Later that day, he met with other militants, including Communists, to

organize the ClO-affiliated Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union.

He took a detour, however, as events in Spain captured his energies

and idealism. Tisa served two years in Spain with the Abraham Lincoln

Brigade, gaining "a sense of internationalism that never escapes you."

On his return, he immediately set out to organize Campbell's Soup.

At the time Tisa began to organize it, Campbell's Soup employed about

5,500 full-time workers, with another 5,000 part-timers who came in

during the heavy season. At least half the workers were of Italian

descent; there were few blacks until the late 1940s. About half the

work force was female. There was a sexual division of labor based on

physical strength. Tisa's organizing group consisted of eleven or

twelve key workers, all leftists, mostly Italian. None were

"colonizers." All were indigenous workers who, under Tisa's

leadership, planned the unionization of Campbell's. Tisa recalls that

the group would often go crabbing and then return to his home to eat,

drink, and talk strategy. Tisa was the only member of the group on the

national union's payroll; he made a bare ten or fifteen dollars a week.

The organizers distributed themselves through the plant, reaching out

to obvious sympathizers and picking up useful information that they

would relay to Tisa, who could not enter the plant. He would take

names and visit workers in their homes, signing them up so that the

union could hold a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. He

would also cull information about working conditions from his

organizers and publish it in a union bulletin that they distributed

clandestinely, each carrying five to ten copies.

As their numbers increased, they became bolder and distributed the

much discussed bulletin openly. Campbell's Soup had Tisa arrested

once, but when he was released, many workers came to greet him. He

assured them that the law permitted them to organize a union. The

company tried many tactics to block his efforts: they started a

company union; they charged that he was a "Red" and had raped nuns and

killed priests in Spain. But Tisa lived in an Italian neighborhood

among plant workers and had a mother who had worked in the plant for

many years (cheering his speeches, often at the wrong times, he wryly

and lovingly notes); he could not be red-baited easily. He was an open

Communist; his neighbors would say, "ny's a Communist, but he's

all right." Despite the real barrier of the workers'traditional

Catholicism, he produced traditional trade-union benefits for members

and was popular enough locally, a neighbor, to remain in leadership

until the CIO purges of the late forties and early fifties finally

forced him out.

Tisa's experience highlights the importance of developing indigenous

personnel in organizing activity. His efforts were certainly bolstered

by support from the national union, by Communist Party training and

aid, and by the relative benevolence of the federal government as

expressed through the new NLRB. Yet the presence of local activists,

something the Communist Party sought but did not often achieve,

invariably made the task of organizing a plant or neighborhood that

much easier.

Other organizers performed similar roles without formally entering the

Party, preferring to remain independent although generally taking

positions consistent with Party policy.

/jack ryan/

Jack Ryan's old man was "a union man," later a foreman, a local

Democratic politician, and a bootlegger. As a teen-ager, and a high

school drop-out, Ryan ran poker and crap games in the neighborhood

with a group of friends, some of whom wound up in prison. He worked

sporadically as a roofer, during which time he was influenced by a

socialist "who couldn't read or write until he was twenty-three."

His father finally got him a job at a local plant, where he worked as

a crane operator in the early Depression years until he was laid off

in 1931. Over the next two years, he tried a small store and "managed

to hang on," selling water ice and running crap games. In 1933 he went

back to the plant just at the point when the local union was being

formed. Ryan recalls that he was "sworn in in an elevator with the

lights out in between the floors." Despite his emerging radical

politics, Ryan remained on the margins at first. "I deliberately

didn't get active," he says, indicating that life seemed too

unpredictable to take chances. In fact, he entered into a real-estate

business on the side, and it eventually provided him with the cushion

that allowed him to become more active within the plant.

Initially he ran for the general committee, backed by the other crane

operators because of his successful grievance work. Still cautious ("I

kept my mouth shut," he notes), Ryan went along with the conservative

local leadership while maintaining contact with the plant militants,

several of whom were old Wobblies suspicious of any Communist Party

leadership. Ryan worked primarily through his own crane operators'

network within the plant. He played the trade-offs in union posts

among the plant's crafts to become local president, an unpaid post,

and finally business representative, the only salaried position within

the local. Ryanremained close to the Party but never joined. "I was

more radical than they were," he brags. He criticizes their twists and

turns and suggests that "in the end you can't trust any of them"

because of "the goddamn line." He adds that the/Daily Worker/was

"written for a bunch of morons." On the other hand, Ryan admits that

Party union members were often competent and successful organizers and

that he agreed with most of their Popular Front stances, particularly

their antifascism. On the Soviets, he says that he did not spend too

much time thinking about them, but adds, "I don't blame them for

having a treaty with the Germans."

Ryan is clearly concerned with the practical issues of trade unionism.

In describing one of his national officers, he exclaims, "A dedicated

Communist but a helluva guy." He praises L. Lewis's efforts at

industrial unionization: "him and the Commies put together the CIO;

they were the smartest crowd." So Jack Ryan worked with but kept some

distance from "the Commies": "they were a little bit nutty." His union

was one of those expelled from the CIO in the late forties, and he

remains bitter about the Party's role in the union's decline. He

remained active, holding union office on and off until his retirement.

Ryan proudly concludes that he was placed on Social Security while on

strike for the last time in the early seventies.

ny Tisa and Jack Ryan were working-class organizers, with roots in

their ethnic communities, able to establish a rapport with their peers

and, at the same time, develop more sophisticated skills within a

broader and more ideological movement in or around the Communist

Party. Their failures were mostly exogenous, the results of

Taft-Hartley oaths, CIO purges, and McCarthyism in general.

Others operated in less favorable terrain, without the decided

advantages of an indigenous, working-class background. The most

characteristic Party labor organizer was a young, educated,

second-generation Jewish-American sent to "dig roots into the

working-class." The efforts of such organizers were prodigious; their

accomplishments, however, were more problematic.

/al schwartz/

Al Schwartz's father was a 1905er, a Party organizer in the garment

industry who had to open a small shop after he was blacklisted. Al, a

classic "red-diaper baby," went through all of the Party developmental

steps, from Young Pioneers through YCL to full Party involvement. Most

of all he wanted to be a radical journalist. For a few years he was

able to work on the Pennsylvania supplement to the/Worker/, but when

it folded, his journalism career seemed over. Over the next half-dozen

years, Schwartz, now in his late twenties, went into the shops as a

"colonizer." He remembers the sense of adventure and mission he felt

working at a few of the larger heavy industrial plants in the area.

Yet he also speaks of his sense of loss and defeat in having to

aban hopes of writing. Schwartz's response to colonizing was

painfully ambivalent: a college graduate and a Jew, born and bred

within the Yiddish-Left subculture, he both relished the contact with

blue-collar workers and remained distant from them. They were not like

him, he stresses; they were mired in back-breaking labor, poor

educations, and plebian forms of leisure. For a time he enjoyed the

camaraderie of the local taverns, but ultimately he was an outsider, a

Jewish family man and a struggling intellectual. Schwartz most fondly

recalls the hardness and fitness of his body, the feeling that he was

young and strong and physically a worker. But the successes were few,

and later the McCarthy period made such Party efforts even more

marginal. Schwartz found himself a family man in his mid-thirties

without a career or a profession; frustrated and drifting out of Party

life without drama or flourish, he moved to reorganize his life. His

political values held, but his colonizing days were over.

/sol davis/

Sol Davis grew up in a poor, working-class, immigrant household. He

was a bright young boy, and like many other upwardly aspiring Jewish

males, he flourished at the elite Central High School andbegan moving

toward a professional career. At this point, in the early years of the

Depression, he was swept off his feet, as he puts it, by the Communist

Party. After completing his schooling, he worked lackadaisically at

his profession while seeking an opportunity to go into the shops as a

Communist Party organizer; he was "determined to be shop worker."

His first attempts allowed him to learn something about machinery,

although in each instance he was fired for his inexperience and

incompetence. Finally he caught on. "I was in my element," he asserts,

describing the war years in heavy industry. For Davis, the good

organizer had to have a commitment to "the principles of Communism,"

"a talent for leadership," and a willingness to listen. A confident

speaker, whose words are clipped and terse, he worked twenty-nine

years in the shops, twenty-six of them at one plant. Located within

the city, the plant was staffed mostly by Catholic workers (Polish or

Irish), initially few blacks, and even fewer Jews.

Davis's recollections are filled with bitter refrains about

red-baiting and "turn-coat ex-CPers," sell-outs and "social

democrats." He is proud of his successes, which include chairing the

grievance committee and serving as shop steward during most of his

union years. Davis presents his life as devoted to organizing in the

shops; he never got involved in his neighborhood and tended to leave

Party electoral work to others. A hard-line orthodox Communist still,

Davis argues that those who abandoned the Party were "petty-bourgeois

with petty-bourgeois ideas," whereas he "was nursed out of the

trade-union movement." In the fifties, he admits, "life became

unpleasant," both in his largely Jewish lower-middle-class

neighborhood and in the shop, where "a certain resistance developed to

my activity" among people he calls anti-Communist socialists.

Davis believes that most American workers have been bought off in

"discrete and discernible fashion" by imperialist profits, manipulated

by the mass media, and blinded by nationalism, religion, and racism.

After spending almost thirty years in theindustrial heartland, Davis

remains "dedicated to an idea," an "unquestioned belief" in communism.

Yet when asked about his ability to convert workers to class

consciousness, a saddened Sol Davis replies, "Never—the shop was a

desert for me." He did not convert a single worker and was "in that

respect an utter failure." The shops, to the stoical Davis, were "a

cultural, political, and philosophical wasteland despite having made

so many friends." Sol Davis has kept the faith since he was "baptized"

in the movement; his singular lack of organizing success rests, in his

mind, on factors beyond his control—repression, cowardice,

self-interest. He is a confident man.

/ caldwell/

Other colonizers had more mixed results. Caldwell, a college

graduate with a middle-class WASP heritage, recalls that in his

initial colonizing effort, "I wasn't very smart and made a lot of

stupid mistakes—talked to people, became known as a troublemaker." He

was fired. Fortunately for Caldwell, his firing made him a "celebrated

case," and the predominantly Irish and Italian Catholic workers, and

even the conservative union officials, rallied to his support.

Caldwell says that whereas other Party organizers had their best

contact in their own departments, he touched bases throughout the

plant and often socialized at the local bar to maintain and develop

relationships. "A fair number knew I was a Communist," he says. "I

never denied it." But most did not. In most plants to admit membership

in the Party meant probable firing and certain harassment. For

organizers like Caldwell, discretion was the rule.

His efforts paid off against the union's local establishment. The

national, a left-wing union, sent in an organizer to help fashion a

local coalition to defeat the established group, and Caldwell worked

with him as elections chairman. The progressive slate was successful.

Caldwell, a leader of a left-wing veterans' group, participated in the

1946 strike surge. When mounted police chased people ontoporches in

Southwest Philadelphia to break up injunction-defying demonstrations,

the local CIO was able to bring out 25,000 workers to protest against

police brutality in front of City Hall. But such Popular Front-style

unified efforts were shattered by the developing Cold War consensus,

which began to drive radicals, particularly Party members, out of the

unions.

Caldwell shifted jobs in this period, finally taking a full-time

organizing job in a nearby industrial town. The plant had some IWO

members and a few Party members, but no organization. Caldwell, who

observes that "it really became difficult after the Korean War"

started, found some success in putting out a small paper and handing

it out at the main gates. He worked to develop contacts mainly by

distributing the Party paper, first for free, then by subscription.

Caldwell remembers proudly that he won a district drive with eighty

subscriptions in his area. Gains were modest: a Hungarian sympathizer

sent him two black shop stewards; then a few Irish Catholics made

contact. Caldwell recalls going into Philadelphia to see prize fights

with the latter workers, mixing pleasure with discussions of possible

articles about their area for the Party press.

But the times wrecked any chance Caldwell had of developing a Party

group. The FBI scared off possible sympathizers; he was arrested for

circulating antiwar petitions, and the venture finally ended in the

heyday of the McCarthy period when Caldwell was sent to join the

Party's underground.

Caldwell and Al Schwartz experienced the ebb of the progressive union

movement in the late forties and early fifties. Most Party labor

organizers and colonizers, however, joined the fray during the

extraordinary upsurge of the late thirties that established industrial

unionism through the CIO.

/milt goldberg/

Milt Goldberg, despite winning a Mayor's Scholarship, was unable to

continue his education after graduating from Central High School.

Instead, he scratched to make a living at odd jobs, gradually becoming

interested in radical politics. While he wasworking a pre-Christmas

job at Sears, the department store warehousemen went out on strike.

Clerks refused to cross the picket lines. Goldberg recalls that the

increasingly anxious owners persuaded the clerks to return to work

with promises of improved conditions and wage increases that were

never fulfilled; meanwhile, the warehousemen settled. In the

aftermath, the strike leaders were all fired. Goldberg says that many

of them were Communists and that he began to notice how often that was

the case: "I respected the Party people; they were able, talented people."

Goldberg became an organizer for a white-collar union dominated by

mobsters who made deals with management at the expense of the

membership. He describes his early efforts as "naive, inexperienced."

Goldberg played a key role in leading his membership out of the

corrupt union into a new CIO local, whose Philadelphia office staff

was dominated by Party organizers. In those days, the late thirties,

the era of sit-downs and a crescendo of collective bargaining

agreements, organizing was remarkably fluid. Goldberg says that

charters were granted easily and with little need for substantiation

or the apparatus of negotiation soon to appear under the NLRB. In

those days, he asserts with some nostalgia, one could go in and

organize a place in one or two days, present demands to the employer,

and make a deal. Such rapid victories were, of course, exceptions;

Goldberg also recalls the often brutal resistance of management,

particularly in heavy industry.

After serving in the war, Goldberg returned to his union efforts,

despite family advice that he try something more prestigious and

lucrative. The union was his life, so he stayed. He never formally

rejoined the Party, although he remained in close contact. The

Taft-Harley anti-Communist oath soon reinforced this decision.

Nevertheless, Goldberg and his small union were red-baited and

constantly under McCarthyite attack.

How did he survive? Goldberg argues that he "was very close to the

membership" and had solid support from his fellow leaders. He

emphasizes that the union provided real benefits and servicesto

membership and sustained their loyalty despite the attacks. In

addition, he notes that by this time the small union did not have a

Party group, only him. One of the more damaging policies of

Party-dominated unions was what Goldberg calls "the resolution

bit"—the passing of Party-sponsored resolutions on every issue from

Scottsboro to Spain. Too many left-wing unions manipulated such

resolutions without making any effort to educate the membership; all

that mattered was that local such-and-such of the so-and-so workers

sent a resolution attacking Franco's dictatorship in Spain. Goldberg

dropped such tactics in the postwar period, instead working with his

local's officers and servicing the practical needs of the membership.

By the mid-fifties, still a socialist, Milt Goldberg had become

estranged from the Communist Party.

As is true of most arts, the qualities that make for a successful

organizer are uncertain and descriptions are inevitably cliche-ridden.

As the experiences of ny Tisa and Jack Ryan indicate, having roots

in the work force being organized gives one a decided advantage. But

the Party could use only the troops it had available, and these were

for the most part educated, urban, Jewish Americans, most of whom had

no experience in the heavy industries that were their "colonies." Most

of them experienced frustration; one cadre estimates that 95 percent

of all Party colonizers failed. Too often colonizers were unable to

operate in a sea of Gentile proletarians. Fred Garst, stillry at

the Party for its insensitivity to context, charges that "the Left

didn't have any organizing skills." But some organizers, remarkably,

succeeded.

/ike samuels/

Ike Samuels still speaks with an accent that reveals the years he

spent in Eastern Europe before his mother, taking the remains of the

family silver, arrived in the United States. No red-diaper baby,

Samuels describes his youth as "street-wise" and his ambition as

making it in America. Like many others, however, "the whole thing

burst into flame" when the Depression forced him to dropout of school

and hunger marches, bonus marches, and unemployed council protests

acted on his emerging social conscience. Soon he was moving toward the

Party and engaging in union organizing.

Samuels, a gruff, self-deprecating man who often refers to his "big

mouth," rose to leadership within a small craft union and served on

the city CIO council. His CIO union was dominated by a Popular Front

coalition of the Party and a progressive Catholic group. The union

president, a leader of the latter, was incompetent; on several

occasions Samuels had to bail him out of collective-bargaining

disasters. Finally the Catholic faction and the Party faction sought

to replace the president with Samuels. The national Party leadership,

however, afraid of upsetting the delicate coalition, said no. Samuels

recalls that he "didn't even question" the decision, but he was

frustrated and soon left the union to become an organizer for a

larger, industrial union.

Samuels agrees with Milt Goldberg that it was relatively easy to be a

good organizer in that period. Labor was in an upswing, workers were

clamoring to be organized, NLRB cards were easy to accumulate. In

heavy industry, Samuels stresses, the key was to seek out the pockets

of old radical workers—not colonizers, he emphasizes—who had broken

down the old ethnic barriers. Many such organizers were members of the

IWO foreign-language federations. Next, one needed the "pie-cards,"

the full-time organizers supplied by the CIO itself, many of whom were

veteran radicals. Along with and sometimes among the pie-cards were

the younger Communists going into the shops, supported by a growing

and confident Party organization. A "highly developed structure,"

Samuels recalls, was essential to organizing success. One had to

develop shop committees and day-to-day contacts in each department.

The sense of strength provided by the union itself and, crucially, by

its CIO sponsor, allowed workers to imagine that the employers could

be successfully challenged. In the automobile, steel, rubber, mining,

and electrical equipment industries, workers facedmammoth corporations

willing to use any means necessary to throw back the unionist surge.

The New Deal, by encouraging a more neutral judiciary and law

enforcement role, made it easier for the coordinated CIO drives to

gain concessions from corporate heads. Samuels suggests that the

workers, some of whom had backed decades of unsuccessful rank-and-file

efforts, needed the sense that they were a part of a powerful

coalition. L. Lewis appealed to this sense when he proclaimed,

"The President want you to join a union." Such a coalition advanced

unionization at the same time that it necessitated concessions and

strictures that limited the leverage of the newly legitimized

unions.^16

Samuels argues that it was imperative for organizers to have knowledge

of their industries. He deliberately worked in a craft shop to learn

the trade and later carefully studied one heavy industry before going

out to organize its workers. He was not typical. Hodee Edwards, a

thirties organizer, stresses "our consistent failure to investigate

the neighborhoods and factories where we tried to work, thus applying

a generalized, sectarian plan usually incomprehensible to those we

wanted to reach."^17

And Sam Katz suggests that the Party did not always recognize the

tension between the leadership and the activist/organizer over the

pace and nature of organizing. The functionaries often pushed for the

most advanced positions, including the "resolutions bit," whereas the

organizers focused on the issues that confronted their constituents.

Conflict was inevitable between broad policy and local needs and

variations, and between policy planners and functionaries and field

organizers and the rank and file. It is clear that the Communist Party

suffered chronically from top-heavy decision making, which often left

local organizers and members with policy directives that made little

sense in local circumstances.

In addition to organizational strength and preparation, Samuels feels

that leadership ability and, at times, personal courage must be

demonstrated. On several occasions he had to take risks or lose the

confidence of his membership. In one local the workers affectionately

referred to him as "R.R.J.B.," Red Russian JewBastard. He tells of

organizing workers in a small Georgia company town. Fifteen hundred

were on strike, and the patriarchal owners were negotiating only under

pressure from the NLRB. They were stalling, however, so Samuels called

on the work force to increase the pressure by massing outside the

building where the negotiations were taking place. The next day, in

the midst of bargaining, Samuels noticed the face of the company's

attorney turning an ash white as he glanced out the window. What he

saw were about three hundred workers marching toward the building

carrying a rope; lynching was on their agenda. Samuels went out and

calmed them down, "modified" their demands, and then wrapped up

negotiations. His early organizing days also included maritime

struggles with gangster elements who were not beyond "bumping off"

militants. Samuels implies that the Left elements fought back,

sometimes resorting to their own brand of physical intimidation.^18

Peggy Dennis describes the Bolshevik ideal as "soldiers in a

revolutionary army at permanent war with a powerful class enemy." And

"in permanent war, doubts or questions are treason."^19

Yet as Joseph Starobin asks, "How could the Leninist equilibrium be

sustained in a country so different from Lenin's?"^20

In fact, it was sustained unevenly and at a price. In a society with a

tradition of civil liberties (albeit inconsistently applied and

occasionally suspended in moments of stress) and a remarkably

resilient political democracy, the Leninist model, hardened and

distorted by Stalinism, mixed uncomfortably with American

realities.^21

At its best the Leninist ideal encouraged the incredible levels of

hard work and perseverance that even critics of Communism grant to its

cadres; it also evoked such personal qualities as integrity, courage,

honesty, and militancy. Yet the ideal seemed to degenerate too easily

into a model of behavior appropriately labeled Stalinist. Communist

cadres accepted deceptive tactics and strategies that inevitably

backfired and undermined theirintegrity and reputations—for example,

the front groups that "flip-flopped" at Party command after years of

denying Party domination. The intolerance and viciousness with which

Communists often attacked adversaries, including liberals, socialists,

and their own heretics, remains inexcusable.^22

As organizers, Communist activists suffered from a tendency toward a

special kind of elitism that often made them incapable of working with

diverse groups sharing common goals. In some periods they turned this

streak of inhumanity against themselves, engaging in ugly campaigns of

smear and character assassination to eliminate "Titoists,"

"Browderites," "revisionists," "left-wing adventurists," or "white

chauvinists."

Moreover, the secrecy within which Communists often operated, while

sometimes justified by the danger of job loss or prosecution, served

to undermine the Party's moral legitimacy. An organizer's relationship

with his constituents depends on their belief in his integrity, and

this is especially true when the organizer is an outsider. Too often,

Communists undermined their own integrity by covering manipulative and

cynical acts with the quite plausible explanation that survival

required secrecy. The tendency of Communists to resort to First and

Fifth Amendment protection during the McCarthy period falls under

similar challenges. As Joseph Starobin asks:

Should left-wingers and Communists have gone to jail in large numbers?

Might they have been better off/politically/, in terms of

their/image/, to assert their affiliations, to proclaim them instead

of asserting their right to keep them private, to explain the issues

as they saw them, and to take the consequences?^23

Communist activists certainly did not lack courage or commitment to a

protracted struggle. Many risked prison, and some served prison

sentences; perhaps as many as one-third of the cadres painfully

accepted assignments to go underground in the early fifties. Their

Leninism had to navigate contradictory currents of Stalinism and

Americanization, militancy and opportunism.

Local Communist activists often lived a somewhat schizophrenic life,

alternately internationalist and indigenous, Bolshevik and

"progressive," admiring the Leninist model of cadre and yet falling

into more settled, familial patterns of activism. There was a clear if

often ignored sexual division of labor: men were more likely to be the

cadres, women performed auxiliary clerical functions and unnoticed but

essential neighborhood organizing.

The Party was also divided between theorists and intellectuals on the

one hand and field workers and activists on the other. As one field

worker proclaimed, "I couldn't be spending hours on ideological

conflicts; I'm an activist, not an intellectual." Many agree that the

bulk of an organizer's time went into local actions and much less went

into discussions and considerations of important theoretical or

programmatic matters.^24

Only a small proportion received the type of ideological and

intellectual training suggested by the Leninist ideal, an ideal that

formally sought the obliteration of the distinctions between thought

and action, intellectual and activist.

In fact, Party intellectuals faced chronic and ingrained suspicion,

even contempt, from Party leaders. Abe Shapiro sardonically charges

that the function of Party intellectuals was "to sell the/Daily

Worker/at the waterfront." He remembers checking on a new Party

document on the economy: "I actually read the document. I wanted to

know what the Hell it was." He found it infantile and far below what

well-trained but never used Party intellectuals and social scientists

could have produced. The Party rarely, except for showcase purposes,

relied on its trained intellectual or academic members; instead, it

called on Party functionaries, often of very narrow training, to write

about complex sociological, economic, and scientific matters. Theory

suffered as a result, and the Party, particularly after 1939, included

very few intellectuals.

Until the mid-fifties crisis, the Party, strangled by Stalinist dogma

and intolerance, was closed to intellectual discourse. Abe Shapiro

finally left the Party because his intellectual training hadgiven him

a commitment to intellectual honesty that he could not shake. Among

organizers, Party arrogance cut off messages from the grass roots.

Orders from what one veteran calls "the Cave of Winds"—Party

headquarters in New York—often contradicted practical organizing

experience.

The Party also suffered from insularity. Mark Greenly brought

interested fellow workers to a Party-dominated union meeting. They

were curious and "antiboss" but quite unsophisticated and not at all

ready to make any commitments. Unfortunately, the Party organizer

immediately started to discuss class struggle and a variety of

abstract political matters. The workers were quickly alienated and

frightened away, never to return. Ethel Paine recalls such

"inappropriate behavior" as the sectarian conversations Party people

would carry on in the presence of non-Communist acquaintances and

neighbors. Although chronically secretive about membership, Communists

could be remarkably insensitive to their audience in revealing ways. A

successful organizer learned when and how to introduce more

controversial ideas to nonmembers. Training, including the Party

schools, helped to some extent, but most Communists agree with the

veteran organizer who feels that such learning has to be done on the

job, by trial and error. Many Communists, like Sam Katz and

Caldwell, tell painful if sometimes hilarious tales of their own and

others' ineptitude as beginning organizers. Some discovered that they

simply were not suited for the job and would never develop the

personal qualities that make for a competent organizer. Several

veterans insist that organizers are born, not made. Yet relatively

introverted and socially awkward young people, inspired by the

idealism and the comradeship of the Communist movement, did transform

themselves into effective organizers. Vivian Gornick points out that

such transformations did not always survive the collapse of

association with the Party.^25

I did not, however, discover total or near total personality changes

caused either by joining or abandoning the Party.

Although most of the literature about radical organizers deals with

men, it is increasingly apparent that some of the mostsignificant and

consistently ignored organizing within the Communist Party involved

women. The ten women interviewed performed a rich variety of Party

tasks, but perhaps the most important were those not officially

designated, like the informal neighborhood activities organized by

Edith Samuels, described inChapter Five

.

Sarah Levy was also involved in such efforts. Sarah and her two

children joined her colonizer husband, Moe, in leaving the comfortable

Party concentration in the Strawberry Mansion section to live in a

nearby industrial town. She refers to the next three and a half years

as "not the easiest times and, yet to me, personally, one of the best

growing experiences—and I have never regretted it." (Moe's wry

rejoinder was "She didn't have to work the blast furnaces.")

There were only three Party families in the town, quite a difference

from the thirty or forty Party friends they left behind in Strawberry

Mansion. While Moe worked the furnaces and tried to develop contacts

with plant workers, Sarah joined a folk dance group at the local "Y,"

where she got to know Greek, Yugoslav, Italian, and other immigrant

women. Moe, limited in the plant to a small Party circle of colonizers

and sympathizers, was able to socialize with the husbands of Sarah's

folk dancing partners.

Colonizers often ended up working with a local Party apparatus while

their wives, working through neighborhood networks, reached into the

community through its women, older people, and children. Asie

Repice casually but proudly concluded about her work with a community

center during the war years; "I am an organizer, so I organized a

nursery." Her husband was in the service. Moving around to stay close

to his base, she put her organizing abilities and political values to

work. Such efforts remain an unwritten chapter in the history of

radical organizing.^26

*/functionaries/*

Few district functionaries other than Sam Darcy achieved any national

stature or had much leverage outside the district. Dave Davis, the

business manager of UE Local 155 and an importantPhiladelphia-area

labor leader, was often elected to the Party's national committee but

never entered the inner decision-making group. Other district

leaders—like Pat Toohey, Phil Bart, Phil Frankfeld, and Ed Strong—were

D.O.s sent into the district and then moved out again to other

assignments.

Most district functionaries played dominant roles within the district

committee and ran such important Party operations as the local

Progressive Party and the Civil Rights Congress. They drew meager

salaries, which were sometimes supplemented by Party-related

employment. The Party network, at least during the late thirties and

forties, could place members in some union jobs.^27

Possibly several dozen members depended on the Party for their

livelihood in this way.

*/nonmembers/*

One often encounters Communists who, for very specific reasons, were

not formal Party members. One former Progressive Party leader never

joined the Party but worked closely with district Communist leaders to

map strategy and coordinate activity. Some union leaders stayed out of

the Party to deny employers the red-baiting weapon, and a number

dropped out after the Taft-Hartley Act made a union officer liable to

prosecution for perjury if he lied about current Party membership.^28

*/professionals/*

Some professionals who joined the Party operated at a rank-and-file

level, belonging to a professional branch or club, attending meetings,

and fulfilling subscription quotas. Several recall being highly

impressed with the other professionals they met at Party functions.

But such members—often doctors, dentists, and architects—were on the

margins of Party life.

Many professionals, especially lawyers associated with Party causes,

found membership problematic and chose not to formalize their

relationships with the Party, though they might be members of a

professional club. "I fought against loose tongues," one states."I

never asked a soul whether they were Communists or not." Several

left-wing attorneys stress that they did not want to be in a position

to betray anyone or risk a perjury charge if questioned about their

own affiliations and associations. The law in America is a

conservative profession, and several Left lawyers paid a high price

for their efforts.^29

Another consideration was that the Party sometimes pressured lawyers

to use a particular legal strategy in Party-related cases, and such

pressure was more effectively applied to members.^30

One attorney notes that the Party itself seemed ambivalent about

requiring formal membership. A few district leaders pressured him to

join, while others understood that it was not particularly useful or

necessary.

Some lawyers, whether members or not, found their services very much

in demand. They were needed in labor negotiations, electoral

activities, and civil rights and civil liberties cases. In the late

forties and early fifties, Party-affiliated lawyers found it less easy

than it had been to earn a living through Party-based clients, such as

left-wing unions. Instead they were called upon to deal with the

titanic task of defending Party members indicted under the Smith Act

and other pieces of repressive legislation. Thanks to this demand, as

one attorney suggests, they received special treatment from the

district leadership. They mixed with labor leaders, politicians,

judges, and, at times, the national Party leadership. Several had more

contact with the non-Communist local authorities than district

functionaries had. One left-wing attorney recalls that he had the

luxury of criticizing Party policies and decisions, within limits,

because "I was needed, I was special, a lawyer."

More significant than membership was the degree of autonomy a member

had, and this was based on his importance to the Party or his

institutional leverage. A professional could get away with criticism

of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that would not be tolerated from

rank-and-filers or most cadres. A union leader could ignore Party

instructions, aware that his own organization was his power base. A

former Communist, George Charney, criticizes in his memoirsthe

"left-wing aristocracy of labor that rarely mingled with the herd of

party members or the middle functionaries."^31

Such trade-unions "influentials" often had contempt for functionaries

and would go over their heads to top leadership.

Those who entered the Party, at whatever level, in whatever role,

operated within a well-defined organization and lived within a

somewhat insular and often nurturing subculture that provided them

with formal and informal relationships. These relationships eased the

often lonely organizing work. One veteran unashamedly calls his fellow

Communist organizers "the most dedicated, most selfless people in the

struggle." Many would share Jessica Mitford's feelings:

I had regarded joining the Party as one of the most important

decisions of my adult life. I loved and admired the people in it, and

was more than willing to accept the leadership of those far more

experienced than I. Furthermore, the principle of democratic

centralism seemed to me essential to the functioning of a

revolutionary organization in a hostile world.^32

Any tendency to romanticize such activists must be tempered by an

awareness of their mistakes, limitations, and weaknesses, and it is

true that many non-Communists made similar commitments to organizing

the oppressed and the weak. They too merit consideration. These

Philadelphia veterans of the Communist Party are very human actors who

worked on a particular historical stage. Some conclude that their

years of effort never really brought any of their factory and shop

constituents into the movement. Like Sol Davis, they admit that they

were utter failures in that "cultural, political, and philosophical

wasteland" of blue-collar America. Others share the pride, perhaps the

arrogance, of one of Vivian Gornick's subjects:

We're everywhere, everywhere. We/saved/this fucking country. We went

to Spain, and because we did America understood fascism. We made

Vietnam come to an end, we're in there inWatergate. We built the CIO,

we got Roosevelt elected, we started black civil rights, we forced

this shitty country into every piece of action and legislation it has

ever taken. We did the dirty work and the Labor and Capital

establishments got the rewards. The Party helped make democracy

work.^33

The road from Spain to Watergate is a long one. Communists, euphoric

at their prospects in the heyday of CIO sit-downs and Popular Front

triumphs, later needed remarkable inner resources to sustain political

activity. They sensed the first tremors from the purge trials,

received a severe jolt from the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of

1939, and in the postwar years faced first political repression and

then, more painfully, internal disintegration and demoralization.

NEXT CHAPTER

seven: problems and crises, 1939–1956


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