Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Forging American Communism: The Life of William Z. Foster: a personal view

A much more personal book.

Finished it this morning on the train.

The character of CP leaders and culture comes out more.

Eugene Dennis is a sarcastic one.... he nicknamed the CP's failed policy of having its leaders go underground during the McCarthy period the "Five Minute to Midnight" policy. Probably some kind of Hollywood reference, but very sarcastic indeed.

Foster comes across a highly energetic, deeply self-sacrificing, individual. It kind of explains that twinkle in his eyes one notices in all the pictures and brief film clips.

When Foster took his break between 1932-1936 in the USSR, it wasn't for physical health, it was for mental health primarily, an interesting side note not picked up on other biographies, probably due to the CP's effort to hide the embarrassment of psychological problems on the parts of its leaders.

Foster's deepest friends for life were the Anarcho-Syndicalists of his youth, and despite their never joining the CP, he was closer to them than any of his CP comrades.

Foster's personality was always calm, and his voice was soft, but everyone knew underneath it lay a burning rage, that could fly to surface at any given moment. They weren't contradictory parts of his personality though, they almost perfectly complimented each other.

Foster and his wife's relationship was an odd one. Foster opposed pro-creation, but helped raise the three children she already had. (No one knew who the father of Ester's other children were, because Ester lived in a Utopian Anarchist Commune, practicing free love, before she hooked up with Foster for life.)

Foster and Ester had a one bedroom apartment, but other than the bedroom they shared, they kept apart. Two rooms were Foster's. Two others were Esther's.

Foster was a movie buff, going as often as he could to movies.

Foster was also a fan of New York Yankees, and his apartment was very close to the stadium.
Foster's last political act was on his 80th Birthday in Moscow, when he scolded Khrushchev over the Sino-Soviet Split from his hospital bed, in front of reporters.

His Five history books "Outline Political History of the Americas", "History of the Communist Party of the USA", "History of the Three Internationals", "History of the Negro People in America", and "Outline History of the World Trade Union Movement", were not just used in Soviet Schools, but also forced on U.S. POWs during the Korean War.

(Some of these POWs remained in the DPRK. Perhaps Foster's books convinced them (?))
This book is much more personal, drawing not from his writings, but from his FBI files and Soviet Records.

It paints a more deeply psychological and personal history than any of the other bios.

Caleb T. Maupin

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