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6 The La Follette Fiasco, 1923–4

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Chapter Summary

John Pepper hailed what he called the 'La Follette revolution', comprising 'elements of the great French Revolution, and the Russian Kerensky Revolution'. He expanded: 'In its ideology it will have elements of Jeffersonianism, Danish cooperatives, Ku Klux Klan and Bolshevism' although 'the proletariat as a class will not play an independent role in this revolution'. In the pamphlet, Ruthenberg denounced Communists in Washington State and Minnesota who advocated openly supporting La Follette, but the logic of the party's position was to tail this bourgeois movement. A shorter pamphlet by Alexander Bittelman attacked La Follette's movement as representing small capitalists, the liberal petty bourgeoisie, 'and the labor aristocracy and labor bureaucracy who have submitted to a bourgeois point of view'. Bittelman, writing to Theodore Draper in 1970, criticised the historian's use of 'fiasco' to describe the farmer-labour chapter of party history.

Keywords: Alexander Bittelman; John Pepper; La Follette's movement; Theodore Draper

10.1163/9789004268890_008
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