Communist Power and Influence Inside the American Political System

“The Communists also discovered that they could exert political power through local Democratic (and sometimes Republican) parties far better than they could in their own name. The American political system’s amorphous character, its direct primaries, and the absence of a really cohesive national party made this possible. Thus, in Minnesota, the Communists could parley with the Farmer-Labor governor, Floyd Olson, without embarrassment; they were instrumental in achieving the fusion of the Farmer-Laborites and the Democratic Party in that state. In Washington and Oregon, it was the left, including publicly known Communists, who built the ‘Commonwealth Federations‘ that became powerful ginger groups within the formal Democratic structure. In Philadelphia, the Communists connected themselves through local reform movements based on the citywide C.I.O. councils (whose flexibility and autonomy of action the Communists were quick to appreciated and exploit) in such a way as to exert powerful leverage on the Democrats. So successful was this strategy that the Party’s ideological opponents, both the Social Democrats and the Trotskyists, tried the same tactic, in the Michigan Commonwealth Federation for example.

“Well-known left-wingers were soon being elected as congressmen, and a well-defined progressive bloc was emerging both in the Senate and the House to which the left had access.42 In the early thirties, Communists had led the unemployed into the seats of city and state government, clamoring for the satisfaction of immediate needs; in Trenton, New Jersey, the state house had been occupied. By the late thirties, they no longer had to break down doors nor come in by the back door. It was not unusual for Communist Party legislative directors or state secretaries to be given cordial attention in the offices of senators, congressmen, mayors, governors, and intermediaries of the White House. Communist political activity was still considered not completely legitimate, but the Party was no longer politically ostracized.”

“42. Some members of the left bloc in the House were Jerry O’Connell, Democrat of Montana; John Bernard, Democrat-Farmer-Labor of Minnesota; Hugh De Lacy, Democrat of Washington, and of course Vito Marcantonio, of New York. In the Senate, Elbert Thomas, Democrat of Utah, and Harley Kilgore, Democrat of West Virginia were among those to whom the left had access.”

Joseph Starobin, “Rememberance of Things Past: The Thirties to the War,” American Communism in Crisis, 1943-1957.





One response to “Communist Power and Influence Inside the American Political System

  1. Pingback: ‘Left’ Objections to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential Campaign | Revolutionary Democratic Socialism

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