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Alone Together: American Intellectuals in the American-Soviet Friendship Movement

  • Author(s): Wagner, David Byron
  • Advisor(s): Lloyd, Brian D
  • et al.
Abstract

American intellectuals who participated in American-Soviet friendship groups between the 1920s and 1980s are often classified as “fellow travelers” in the literature of the American Left. Scholars have deemed the American-Soviet friendship organizations – most prominently the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (NCASF) – “Communist-fronts,” a phrase used to designate groups that pretended to be loyal to American institutions but in fact served Soviet purposes. In the tradition of Denning’s work on the Popular Front and Isserman’s on the American Communist Party, this dissertation complicates our understanding of the American-Soviet friendship movement and its leaders. By examining the influences and careers of four leaders of the movement – Corliss Lamont, Richard Morford, Rockwell Kent, and Harry Steinmetz – this dissertation proves that the intellectuals and reformers drawn to the American-Soviet friendship movement pursued ideas and ideals that were current at the time – pacifism, pragmatism, techno-utopianism, humanism, progressive education, artistic realism – but did so in a manner that gave the cause of American-Soviet friendship a unique flavor that distinguished it from the Popular Front and Communist Party. The friendship movement supplied an environment in which to explore alternative visions of social progress and human justice, and it was ultimately the leadership’s commitment to these alternative visions – rather than loyalty to the Soviet Union or communism in general – that shaped the careers of those who proposed to lead that movement.

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