Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Independent: Communist Party people: The secret history of Red America

History's dustbin finds a new home, open to the public.

Michael Nash, the director of New York University's Tamiment Library on the Party's donation of their archives to the Library.
The joke, anyway, is that the communists have always been in town, it's just that few people realised it, not even Nash. "I didn't know they were still around, until they called me." That happened in February last year. The party that America has loved to demonise was not only still alive (if not quite kicking) but housed barely a mile away in its own handsome, if dilapidated, building on West 23rd Street.

But they did have a problem. Because of a shortage of funds - Moscow stopped sending their American comrades cash in 1989 - they were being forced to rent out some of their floors to commercial tenants (capitalism eventually catches up with everyone) and that was where their enormous archives were. Would Tamiment take them, look after them, and, after cataloguing, make them accessible to the public? Those who consider Tamiment's acceptance of the archive - crammed in some 12,000 cartons - treasonable, may also want to consider this. While it includes some titbits that will only confirm them in their view that the party was a slavish proxy of Moscow bent on revolution in America, the broader picture is rather different. It reveals to a greater extent than ever before the party's role in effecting social change in America in the last century, whether it was helping grow the union movement and labour protections or, less predictably, laying the groundwork for the black civil rights struggle in the South.
Speeches by CPUSA leaders on the donation can be found here.

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