Louis C. Fraina - Biography - Pioneer Communist Theoretician (1917-1919)

Pioneer Communist Theoretician (1917-1919)

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. This decision was bitterly opposed by the Socialist Party of America, which at its 1917 Emergency National Convention passed a militant document pledging continued opposition and resistance to the effort. Fraina rejoined the Socialist Party at this time and soon emerged as one of the leader's of the organization's left wing.

In 1917, Fraina joined with Marxist theoretician Louis Boudin as a co-editor of Ludwig Lore's magazine, The Class Struggle. The publication, which first saw print in May 1917, soon became a leading voice of the radical wing of the Socialist Party, individuals who congealed into an organized political faction called the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party in 1919.

In 1918 Fraina was responsible for the first post-revolutionary collection of the writings of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky to be published in the United States. The book, entitled The Proletarian Revolution in Russia, gave English-speaking readers their first glimpse at the ideas of the Russian Communist Party and spurred the desire for emulation on the part of many American radicals.

Early in 1918 five radical Russian groups united with the English-speaking Socialist Propaganda League with which Fraina was associated to form the American Bolshevik Bureau of Information. The body was joined by Soviet Russian official representative Ludwig Martens, ostensibly as the delegate of the "New York Section of Russian Bolsheviki." The Bureau served as a forerunner of the official Russian Soviet Government Bureau, distributing official communications on behalf of the Soviet government, which was isolated by the European war and the object of sometimes imaginative vilification in the pages of the American press.

Fraina was also the editor of two of the earliest proto-Communist newspapers in the United States, The New International (1918) and The Revolutionary Age (1918-1919). Combined with his other speaking, writing, and organizational activities, this position as editor of the leading radical publications of the day helped make Fraina arguably the leading theoretical and political figure of the founding days of the American communist movement.

Fraina was the author of the Left Wing Manifesto that served as the fundamental theoretical document of the organized Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party that emerged early in 1919. Fraina was a delegate to the June 1919 National Council of the Left Wing held in New York City and was prominent in the effort of members of the party's suspended foreign language federations and others seeking to establish a new Communist Party of America (CPA) independent of the outcome of the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party. As arguably the top English-speaking leader of the new organization, Fraina was elected temporary chairman at the opening of the Founding Convention of the Communist Party of America on September 1, 1919, and delivered the keynote address to that body. He was also elected International Secretary by that body — the group's de facto first delegate to the Communist International in Moscow.

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