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Wed Jan 23, 2013, 12:45 PM

History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster (1952)


Excerpt from Chapter One: Early American Class Struggles (1793-1848)



The American Revolution of 1776, which Lenin called one of the "great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars,"1 began the history of the modern capitalist United States. It was fought by a coalition of merchants, planters, small farmers, and white and Negro toilers. It was led chiefly by the merchant capitalists, with the democratic masses doing the decisive fighting. The Revolution, by establishing American national independence, shattered the restrictions placed upon the colonial productive forces by England; it freed the national market and opened the way for a speedy growth of trade and industry; it at least partially broke down the feudal system of land tenure; and it brought limited political rights to the small farmers and also to the workers, who were mostly artisans, but it did not destroy Negro chattel slavery. And for the embattled Indian peoples the Revolution produced only a still more vigorous effort to strip them of their lands and to destroy them.

The Revolution also had far-reaching international repercussions. It helped inspire the people of France to get rid of their feudal tyrants; it stimulated the peoples of Latin America to free themselves from the yoke of Spain and Portugal; and it was an energizing force in the world wherever the bourgeoisie, supported by the democratic masses, were fighting against feudalism. The Revolution was helped to success by the assistance given the rebelling colonies by France, Spain, and Holland, as well as by revolutionary struggles taking place currently in Ireland and England.

The Revolution was fought under the broad generalizations of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, which called for national independence and freedom for all men. It declared the right of revolution and the dominance of the secular over the religious in government. But these principles meant very different things to the several classes that carried through the Revolution. To the merchants they signified their rise to dominant power and an unrestricted opportunity to exploit the rest of the population. To the planters they implied the continuation and extension of their slave system. To the farmers they meant free access to the broad public lands. To the workers they promised universal suffrage, more democratic liberties, and a greater share in the wealth of the new land. And to the oppressed Negroes they brought a new hope of freedom from the misery and sufferings of chattel bondage.

The Constitution, as originally formulated in 1787, and as adopted in the face of powerful opposition, consisted primarily of the rules and relationships agreed upon by the ruling class for the management of the society which they controlled. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the Constitution, providing for freedom of speech, press, and assembly, religious liberty, trial by jury, and other popular democratic liberties, was written into the Constitution in 1791 under heavy mass pressure.2

Great as were the accomplishments of the Revolution, it nevertheless left unsolved many bourgeois-democratic tasks. These unfinished tasks constituted a serious hindrance to the nation's fullest development. The struggle to solve these questions in a progressive direction made up the main content of United States history for the next three-quarters of a century. Among the more basic of these tasks, were the abolition of slavery, the opening up of the broad western lands to settlement, and the deepening and extension of the democratic rights of the people. The main post-revolutionary fight of the toiling masses, in the face of fierce reactionary opposition, was aimed chiefly at preserving and extending their democratic rights won in the Revolution.


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Reply History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster (1952) (Original post)
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 OP
jtuck004 Jan 2013 #1
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 #2
jtuck004 Jan 2013 #3
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 #4

Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Wed Jan 23, 2013, 07:22 PM

1. I was just reading his "Pages From A Worker's Life"


So much history that was and is withheld from us...paints a completely different picture from what we were taught.

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Response to jtuck004 (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 23, 2013, 07:37 PM

2. I'm halfway through that one myself at the moment.

It's a good counterpoint to his "History", which is more formal. I agree, it's amazing what we don't get taught. The first few chapters of this book in the OP are like brain vitamins.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #2)

Fri Jan 25, 2013, 01:06 PM

3. I started reading this again from


The First National Hunger Strike, and read through to the end. I had read through a few chapters before. It was hard to put down. I wondered why "Democratic Socialism" had been characterized as failed in other books, but he provides a better explanation of how he saw it near the end of the text.

(Coincidentally I have been wondering for some time if the Communists would like to set up Unemployed Councils again. But perhaps with technology we do it without them this time. Maybe pursue Haywood's goal of worker-ownership, not communism.)

It's interesting to read someone who worked as part of Stalin's efforts, toward the kind of system Foster thought should win out. I think that's the first uncritical person-on-the-street (well, government worker) view I have ever read. I have been stuffed with "Stalin bad, murdered thousands" etc, and it doesn't sound like the same guy, though I know it is.

In this book Stalin's victims are described as saboteurs and anarchists and the killing isn't talked about. "Somehow or other the old gang of saboteurs had been cleaned out...". I bet. But that isn't much different from the bloody history of the capitalists against labor, the killing of 80 million native people, or creating a constitution that says a person is now a whole person because of the color of their skin.

I am continually amazed and disappointed with those who provided my "schooling". Tempered now with knowing what we have done makes us seem a little less "exceptional", but it sure sharpens up the picture of who one's friends really are.

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Response to jtuck004 (Reply #3)

Fri Jan 25, 2013, 05:53 PM

4. The Communists are talking about unemployed councils again.

And even using technology to help. There are some interesting shifts going on in the labor movement right now too.

I think everyone is at a point where we realize that old techniques also need new methods to bring about effective coalitions.

In the book, Foster tells how labor evolved with the conditions that were going on in the US, which I find very valuable. Due to America's rivalry with economies that they felt threatened capitalism, all we hear about is other countries socialists and why they are good or bad compared to our system. America never gets properly fit into the picture of world socialist development. It was great reading all the way back to the first stirrings of class development in the US, and seeing if there is a way to bridge then to now.

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