Monday, March 19, 2007

What will the hardcore paranoids make of this?

Earl Browder, Communist Party leader circa 1938 (he went on to become a flaming rightwinger in his later career)

Communist Party USA Gives Its History to N.Y.U. New York Times by Patricia Cohen 03/20/07. The story says pretty much what the headline implies:

The cache [of donated documents] contains decades of party history including founding documents, secret code words, stacks of personal letters, smuggled directives from Moscow, Lenin buttons, photographs and stern commands about how good party members should behave (no charity work, for instance, to distract them from their revolutionary duties).

By offering such an inside view, the archives have the potential to revise assumptions on both the left and the right about one of the most contentious subjects in American history, in addition to filling out the story of progressive politics, the labor movement and the civil rights struggles.
Cohen notes that many of the documents have been available already at the Library of Congress:

The primary source of American party documents available to the public has been the Library of Congress, which microfilmed a batch of Communist Party USA records in Soviet archives that had been shipped there 50 years earlier for safekeeping. John Earl Haynes, a historian at the Library of Congress who was the first American to examine the Soviet files, said that since N.Y.U. has a copy of the Library of Congress material, “This will give Tamiment [the NYU library] the enviable position of being able to offer researchers access to what is in Moscow as well as the new C.P.U.S.A. collection.”

When the collection opened in 2000, the Library of Congress said, "the C.P.U.S.A. has always beena secretive organization," and “the previous paucity of the archival record has been a major obstacle to scholarship on the history of the American Communist movement,” and a reason for "highly contentious" debates.
Yes, it's safe to say the Communist Party generated "highly contentious" debates.

The article also quotes Ronald Radosh, an historian, "Red diaper baby" (from the days when red was the Party color of the Communists, not the Republicans) and general rightwing twit complaining that the NYU library wasn't condemning the Commies enough. Or something. Even after the Party is history, people that have spent decades emotionally committed to fighting the Nefarious Communist Conspiracy can't quite give it up yet.


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