Loyalties and Disloyalties: Communist Parties and Members from the Americas to the World

AHA Session 54
Conference on Latin American History 10
Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Marc Becker, Truman State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

Loyalties and Disloyalities: Communist Parties and Members across the Américas

This session will explore relationships between and among Communist parties and their members across the Americas and other Communist parties in Europe and Asia from the 1930s through the early 1950s. Most studies of Communist parties in the Americas have either focused on individual parties in their national context or on their connection with the Comintern or the Soviet Union. This session offers a different approach by exploring the connections Communist parties had with each other and on the broader nationalist, anti-imperialist, labor, and solidarity movements of which they were part. By broadening our field of analysis to include a range of Communist parties throughout the Americas, this session will shed light on the variety of realities in which the parties operated and the diversity of programs, policies, and analyses they developed.

Tony Wood’s presentation, “Semicolonials and Soviets: Latin American Communists in the USSR, 1928-1935” discusses how Latin American Communists reshaped Soviet understandings of their region—and vice versa. He explores the experiences in Moscow of delegates and students from Latin American Communist parties at the turn of the 1930s, tracing their contributions to Comintern debates and the impact of the USSR on their later political trajectories.

Margaret Power explores the relationship between the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the Communist Party of Puerto Rico (CPPR). She will address how the two parties understood and acted upon the obvious power imbalance between them. The Comintern and Communist parties throughout the Americas advocated an end to colonialism. Yet, the CPUSA was the Communist Party of the nation that colonized Puerto Rico. This presentation will examine how these contradictions and challenges affected the development of the CPPR and the relationship between the two parties.

In “Afro-Caribbean Migrants, the Labor Movement, and Communists in theGreater Caribbean, 1900-1930,” Jacob Zumoff Jacob Zumoff examines migrants from the British and other European colonies in the Caribbean who migrated throughout the Americas the early twentieth century. At the time, the Greater Caribbean was undergoing great political ferment, including the development of nationalism and opposition to United States domination and imperialism, as well as the formation of Communist parties in the region. His presentation will examine the roles of Afro-Caribbean migrants in different countries and their relationship with the labor movement and Communist parties, with a specific focus on the United States, Panama, and Costa Rica. He will also examine how the Communist parties differed in their relationship to the Afro-Caribbean population.

Based on documents that the CIA has recently released on its Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room (https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/), Marc Becker explores the vibrant intercultural and political relations that Latin American communists maintained with their counterparts in Europe and China in the early 1950s. Their constant travel and the solidarity networks that they developed subjected them to intense scrutiny from both their local and the United States governments.

See more of: AHA Sessions