Forging American Communism: The Life of William Z. Foster (Princeton Legacy Library)

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9780691033310: Forging American Communism: The Life of William Z. Foster (Princeton Legacy Library)
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A major figure in the history of twentieth-century American radicalism, William Z. Foster (1881-1961) fought his way out of the slums of turn-of-the-century Philadelphia to become a professional revolutionary as well as a notorious and feared labor agitator. Drawing on private family papers, FBI files, and recently opened Russian archives, this first full-scale biography traces Foster's early life as a world traveler, railroad worker, seaman, hobo, union activist, and radical journalist, and also probes the origins and implications of his ill-fated career as a top-echelon Communist official and three-time presidential candidate. Even though Foster's long and eventful life ended in Moscow, where he was given a state funeral in Red Square, he was, as portrayed here, a thoroughly American radical.


The book not only reveals the circumstances of Foster's poverty-stricken childhood in Philadelphia, but also vividly describes his work and travels in the American West. Also included are fascinating accounts of his early political career as a Socialist, "Wobbly," and anarcho-syndicalist, and of his activities as the architect of giant organizing campaigns by the American Federation of Labor, involving hundreds of thousands of workers in the meatpacking and steel industries. The author views Foster's influence in the American Communist movement from the perspective of the history of American labor and unionism, but he also offers a realistic assessment of Foster's career in light of factional intrigues at the highest levels of the Communist International.


Originally published in 1994.


The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


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Review:

"Johanningsmeier has written a biography worthy of its subject. He has done so in large measure by drawing on newly available sources, including Foster's own papers, in Moscow.... [He] provides a compelling portrait of [Foster's] career and personality. Anyone who would understand the history of the American Left should read this book."--Bruce Nelson, American Historical Review

"This is a splendid book.... [It] is a major work that frees Foster from the twin straight-jackets of hagiography and red-baiting. This book is vital to our understanding of the vicissitudes of U.S. communism and labor radicalism in the twentieth century."--Daniel J. Leab, The Historian

"In the fall of 1919, William Z. Foster ... commanded national attention as the field general of the American Federation of Labor's ill-fated attempt to unionize the mightiest bastion of the open shop, the United States Steel corporation.... [This] is a good and useful and lucidly written book."--Journal of American History

"This book advances the historiography of communism in the United States considerably. Learned and reliable, it will be an important source for scholars for decades to come."--Bryan D. Palmer, Labour/Le Travail

From the Author:

William Z. Foster, American radical
William Z. Foster, former National Chairman of the American Communist party, grew up in the slums of Philadelphia in the 1880s and 90s, and died in Moscow in 1961. Lenin knew of Foster's brilliant work during World War I as a labor organizer in the United States, and Joseph Stalin considered Foster to be a vital connection with the American working class. I was first drawn to write a biography of Foster because of his extensive and diverse experiences as an American worker, labor organizer and radical journalist before he joined the Communists in 1921. Later, my research on his long career as a Communist convinced me that while he was an admirer of the Soviet Union and the Russian Communists, he was never simply a Soviet agent, as his detractors and some historians have made him out to be. Indeed, I found that some high-ranking Soviet observers considered Foster unreliable. This biography makes extensive use of the Russian archives containing the files of the Communist International (Comintern), Red International of Labor Unions, and Communist Party of the U.S. In Moscow, I was also given access to Foster's personal collection of political papers and correspondence, deposited in the Soviet Union by his daughter in 1974. The paperback edition of the book has a new preface which discusses additional information about Foster which I located in Moscow in 1996, two years after publication of the hardcover edition.

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9780691058924: Forging American Communism: The Life of William Z. Foster (Princeton Legacy Library)

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ISBN 10:  069105892X ISBN 13:  9780691058924
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 1998
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