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Forging American Communism:
The Life of William Z. Foster
Edward P. Johanningsmeier
With a new preface by the author

Paperback | 2014 | $64.00 | £53.95 | ISBN: 9780691607009
Hardcover | 2016 | $160.00 | £133.95 | ISBN: 9780691635675
458 pp. | 6 x 9 | 23 illus.
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A major figure in the history of twentieth-century American radicalism, William Z. Foster (1881-1961) fought his way out of the slums of turn-of-the-century Philadelphia to become a professional revolutionary as well as a notorious and feared labor agitator. Drawing on private family papers, FBI files, and recently opened Russian archives, this first full-scale biography traces Foster's early life as a world traveler, railroad worker, seaman, hobo, union activist, and radical journalist, and also probes the origins and implications of his ill-fated career as a top-echelon Communist official and three-time presidential candidate. Even though Foster's long and eventful life ended in Moscow, where he was given a state funeral in Red Square, he was, as portrayed here, a thoroughly American radical.

The book not only reveals the circumstances of Foster's poverty-stricken childhood in Philadelphia, but also vividly describes his work and travels in the American West. Also included are fascinating accounts of his early political career as a Socialist, "Wobbly," and anarcho-syndicalist, and of his activities as the architect of giant organizing campaigns by the American Federation of Labor, involving hundreds of thousands of workers in the meatpacking and steel industries. The author views Foster's influence in the American Communist movement from the perspective of the history of American labor and unionism, but he also offers a realistic assessment of Foster's career in light of factional intrigues at the highest levels of the Communist International.

Originally published in 1994.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


"Johanningsmeier has written a biography worthy of its subject. He has done so in large measure by drawing on newly available sources, including Foster's own papers, in Moscow.... [He] provides a compelling portrait of [Foster's] career and personality. Anyone who would understand the history of the American Left should read this book."--Bruce Nelson, American Historical Review

"This is a splendid book.... [It] is a major work that frees Foster from the twin straight-jackets of hagiography and red-baiting. This book is vital to our understanding of the vicissitudes of U.S. communism and labor radicalism in the twentieth century."--Daniel J. Leab, The Historian

"In the fall of 1919, William Z. Foster ... commanded national attention as the field general of the American Federation of Labor's ill-fated attempt to unionize the mightiest bastion of the open shop, the United States Steel corporation.... [This] is a good and useful and lucidly written book."--Journal of American History

"This book advances the historiography of communism in the United States considerably. Learned and reliable, it will be an important source for scholars for decades to come."--Bryan D. Palmer, Labour/Le Travail


More Endorsements

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Preface to the Paperback Edition xi
Acknowledgments xxi
Note on Sources xxiii
CHAPTER 1 Beginnings 10
CHAPTER 2 Socialist and Syndicalist 31
CHAPTER 3 The Syndicalist Leagues 56
CHAPTER 4 Labor Organizing in "The jungle" 88
CHAPTER 5 The Great Steel Strike
CHAPTER 6 Labor Organizer and Communist 150
CHAPTER 7 The "Free Lance" and the Communist Party 175
CHAPTER 8 "Phrases Learned in Europe" 214
CHAPTER 9 The Reluctant Agitator 249
CHAPTER 10 The Democratic Front 272
CHAPTER 11 "Browderism" 293
CHAPTER 12 Unionism, Politics, and the Cold War 314
CHAPTER 13 Final Struggles 333
Notes 355
Index 423


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Hardcover published in 1994

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File created: 7/11/2017

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