Raising Reds

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat May 24 14:04:37 MDT 2003

*****   Paul C Mishler, Raising Reds: The Young Pioneers, Radical
Summer Camps, and Communist Political Culture in the United States,
New York, Columbia University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-231-11045-6.

Between 1922 and 1944 the Communist Party of the United States
(CPUSA) organised and ran an extensive range of programmes, clubs,
camps and societies designed to nurture, educate and discipline the
children of American communist families, and to draw in recruitable
youngsters from outside the party's immediate circles. Raising Reds
provides an illuminating and broadly sympathetic account of the
CPUSA's attempts to generate and sustain a 'young communist' current,
that is sensitive to the shifting ideological perspectives that
guided the party's 'youth work', and able to incorporate the
perspectives of both participants and organisers. Richly sourced, the
author makes effective use of archival and manuscript collections,
party publications, anti-communist federal government documents, and
interviews with party youth workers and organisers, as well as a
wealth of secondary material....

In the 1920s, a high percentage of CPUSA members were new immigrants.
This left both party officials and party families with a clear, but
far from straight-forward, choice. Should the party direct its
energies into efforts to establish supportive, but culturally
distinct, ethnic societies among immigrant communists; or should it
seek to integrate immigrant communist communities into mainstream
'indigenous' US society? The party's youth agencies pursued both
'separatist' and 'assimilationist' strategies at different times in
response to this tension....

Mishler's positive view of the Popular Front strategy, common to a
majority of the 'new historians' of the CPUSA, is reflected in the
priority afford to that period of party youth work. The onset of
Popular Front politics saw the Young Pioneers disbanded, and the
promotion, in its place, of the youth sections of the International
Workers' Order (IWO), the organisation which became 'the center of
the political culture of Popular Front communism in working-class
communities.' (p.67) Greater emphasis was now placed on recognising
and seeking to synthesise particular ethnic identities into new
radical senses-of-self and community, and on negotiating new
relationships with the dominant culture. The scope of youth work
itself was redefined to include recreational, sporting and cultural
activities as well as the traditional political ones. The stated goal
of 'socialism' was gradually replaced in the IWO's lexicon by new
'democratic' and 'social' objectives and with a special concern for a
breadth of 'labor and progressive movements.'

The effort of jewish communists to construct a radical, secular
jewish working class culture - in particular through the work of the
after-school clubs, the shules - is also examined and the tensions
between ethnic, religious and political affiliations with which
jewish members of the CPUSA grappled is discussed. A chapter on
'primers for the revolution' provides a diverting and thoughtful
account of the little-studied theme of communist children's
literature - an overview enhanced by the inclusion of a discursive
booklist in an accompanying appendix. In these works Mishler finds
additional evidence of the tension that pitted 'particular' against
'universal', and 'insider' against 'outsider', identities - here
rehearsed in the morality tales of children's story books, and the
'lessons' of approved educational and scientific texts.

Three radical summer camps from the Popular Front era are analysed in
some detail. The renowned Camp Kinderland evolved from the work of
the shules, celebrated and explored radical jewish culture, and was
recognised as autonomous from, if still closely allied to, the CPUSA.
In the work of Kinderland, art, music and creative self-expression
were seen as central concerns. Camp Wo-Chi-Ca, also strongly
influenced by jewish culture, pursued a multicultural programme of
work and recreation. The integrated ethnic and racial mix at the camp
drew the hostile attention of both camp neighbours and the state
authorities. Camp Woodland looked to merge 'urban-based radicalism
with the "naturally" democratic traditions of rural America' (p.99),
to create a new and authentic oppositional culture, in which folk
music was to have a significant place....

Richard Cross, University of Manchester

<http://les1.man.ac.uk/chnn/CHNN08RRY.html>   *****

Paul Mishler, _Raising Reds: The Young Pioneers, Radical Summer
Camps, and Communist Political Culture in the United States_,

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