Sunday, March 09, 2014
In Honor Of The 95th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International-Take Seven-The Long Road Home
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Jack Smithfield (party name, real name James Gladstone, originally from old Chi town) sat in his little closet of an office at American Communist Party headquarters just outside of Union Square in old haunted New York City and declared himself tired (that declared part was something of an inside joke of late what with all the squabbles and everybody declaring, or being forced to declare for or against something, so he was declaring himself tired). Not that he would publicly declare such a condition, not these days, not being sure which way the winds were blowing in the party. Who knows maybe being tired, or the declaration of such tiredness, was in fact creating an unauthorized faction and thus anathema and no paycheck.
All Jack knew was that he was beginning to rue the day ten years before that he had taken up a friend’s friendly offer to come to New York City and become a trade union organizer for the party (and the just-formed Communist International that was providing the funding at that point) at a time when in, association with the big-time organizer William Z. Foster, they had lost some Chi town strikes as the bosses dug in their heels, dug them in deep and he was in need, desperately in need of a job. Funny that friend, Jake Armor (party name), had left the party a couple of years later when the big to-do over whether to be an underground or aboveground party was a big deal and he had sided with the under-grounders and headed to Mexico. (He had heard later that that Jake had surfaced around Diego Rivera and his arty crowd a couple of years back, some much for underground conspiracies around those flame-throwers). Moreover he had grabbed that train to New York and a job with the specific idea of making enough dough to marry Anna, his hometown high school sweetheart from back in the Division Street cold-water flat tenements. And he had. She had come to New York with him as he began to organize the New York garment workers. Moreover she had fallen in love with New York, the Village (Greenwich Village for those not in the know), and with some foul Trotskyite painter a couple of years back and had taken little Sarah and left him high and dry in order to “find herself.” (The last he had heard, via Sarah, was that she was with some Dadaist, whatever that was, poet, and at least not a known Trotskyite which, who knows might get him into trouble since they just expelled Jim Cannon and his counter-revolutionary crowd).
Yes, Jack was beginning to rue that day as he sat in that cubbyhole office trying to figure out what had happened to Jim Gladstone turned jack Smithfield since that fateful day in 1919. Some of it was fun, at least at first anyway, the travelling part, going here and there for the party up and down the East Coast. That Paterson textile strike was a beauty, great guns blazing, although he was not really sure whether they had won or lost it in the long haul (in the short haul, yes, they had won). And getting to go to the first international conference of the Red International of Trade Unions in Moscow where he met lots of other trade union organizers and found out that they all had the same basic problems as he did in organizing the masses. Even some of the whacky party fights around that previously mentioned underground-aboveground battle, the fight over the labor party and who to endorse, sending the party headquarters to Chicago to get out of stuffy New York (ho, ho, what a laugh) and even the name of the party (there had actually been two parties at one point, with crazy factions lined up to decide who was king of the hill. The Comintern had to figure it out for them, jesus). But lately, the last couple years the thing had kind of spiraled out of control.
Here’s the funny part. When Jack had mentioned his job offer to William Z. (nobody ever called him Bill, not even his drinking buddies) back in 1919 he had nixed it for himself saying that he publicly didn’t want to get mixed up with radicals and reds. Well that was just a ruse. William Z. had already been in contact with the party discreetly and had been using Jack as a “stalking horse.” When William Z. did finally come out and join the party Jack and others became part of his faction, gladly. And things went along okay for a while, especially when Jim Cannon and his old Wobblie boys came along with the faction (factions made necessary by all those fights in the party mentioned before).
But then, Jack was not sure when, things changed. Maybe when Lenin died and Stalin took over in Russia and more Russian emissaries were showing up at party headquarters with directions on what to do, or not to do. Maybe when the old-time leaders like Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev started wilting and falling out of favor. Or maybe it was more recently when Jim Cannon and his crowd got booted out for being damn Trotskyites (and good riddance since one of them was that bastard painter who “stole” Anna from him) and then the next thing you knew Jay Lovestone and his crowd were taking the same boot leaving Earl Browder, Christ, Earl Browder, William Z.’s assistant was made party leader. All Jack knew was that he was tired, undeclared tired in case anybody from the party was asking, but he also knew times were tough and that he needed that damn paycheck …