Event Title

"You Started Something when You Joined the International Brigade, Papa": Alvah Bessie, the Spanish Civil War, and the Communist Party of the United States of America

Presenter Information

Reid Palmer, Oberlin College

Location

Science Center, A155

Start Date

4-25-2014 2:45 PM

End Date

4-25-2014 3:45 PM

Abtract

This thesis challenges the traditional narrative of the Communist Party of the United States of America through a “microhistory” of one of its dedicated members, writer Alvah Bessie (1904-1985). By studying the documents, books, and letters Bessie left behind, I show how the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) accelerated the collapse of the organized revolutionary left in the United States. As revealed in Bessie’s narrative, the Soviet Union’s military mismanagement and strict anti-revolutionary policies led to a significant number of the most committed American communists being killed, wounded, or disillusioned with Soviet-style communism.

Notes

Session II, Panel 7 - Careful What You Wish For: Cautionary Case Studies in (Radical) Democracy
Moderator: Chris Howell, Professor of Politics

Major

Economics; History

Advisor(s)

Ellis Tallman, Economics
Len Smith, History

Project Mentor(s)

Renee Romano, History

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Apr 25th, 2:45 PM Apr 25th, 3:45 PM

"You Started Something when You Joined the International Brigade, Papa": Alvah Bessie, the Spanish Civil War, and the Communist Party of the United States of America

Science Center, A155

This thesis challenges the traditional narrative of the Communist Party of the United States of America through a “microhistory” of one of its dedicated members, writer Alvah Bessie (1904-1985). By studying the documents, books, and letters Bessie left behind, I show how the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) accelerated the collapse of the organized revolutionary left in the United States. As revealed in Bessie’s narrative, the Soviet Union’s military mismanagement and strict anti-revolutionary policies led to a significant number of the most committed American communists being killed, wounded, or disillusioned with Soviet-style communism.